Contributed by Francis Ng Sai Wai, Convener for Badminton, Bar Council Sports Committee; and photos by G Shagela Nair, Officer, Bar Council Sports Committee, Bar Council
The 50th edition of the Bench and Bar Games between Malaysian Bar and the Law Society of Singapore was held in Singapore from 27 April to 29 April 2019.
The Malaysian Bar Badminton Team as well as the teams for the other sports were instructed to begin their training much earlier than usual in anticipation of the strong challenge from Law Society of Singapore since this is the Golden Jubilee edition and Singapore being host is expected to mount a strong challenge to win the series.
It was not the norm and slightly unusual for badminton to be played on a Friday night for the Bench and Bar Games but probably necessary for scheduling and logistical purposes.
This year as was in 2017, badminton was played at The Singapore Swimming Club at Tanjong Rhu Road. The bus picked up the Malaysian Bar players at approximately 5:45 pm and made its way laboriously through the Friday evening traffic before reaching the venue at approximately 6:30 pm.
The green rubberised courts coupled with similarly coloured walls of the hall matches the navy/green badminton tops that the Malaysian players were wearing for the first time and set the tone for the exciting matches that took place. Whilst waiting for the Singapore Team to arrive, the Malaysian Team proceeded to do some stretching and warm up exercises led by Vincent Ping.
The team’s spirit was further buoyed by the presence of the Bar Council Office Bearers who along with YA Datuk Firuz Jaffril came to watch some of the matches.
Only five competitive matches were played which consisted of three men’s doubles, one women’s doubles and one mixed doubles.
The matches started at approximately 7:20 pm with the first men’s doubles pair of Mak Rongjie and Ezen Cheah Yuk Seng for Malaysian Bar. Despite making his debut and playing in the first match of the day, Ezen Cheah played well and complemented Mak’s game seamlessly. Both pairs made some unforced errors but in the end, the Malaysian pair played steadily to win by a comfortable score line of 21–12 and 21–12.
Simultaneously on the adjacent court, the women’s doubles pair of Lim Soo Wen and Leong Pei Pei took on the strong Singapore women’s pair which has won this match in the last two editions. Despite trying their best, the Malaysians lost 11–21 and 14–21. The mood in the Malaysian camp was slightly dampened. Even though everyone knew it would be an uphill task especially after looking at the list of Singapore women players, the possibility of an upset was hoped for since the Malaysian women trained hard over the last few months.
With the overall score now at 1–1, the second men’s doubles pair of Vincent Ping and Chia Wen Chow and the mixed doubles pair of Alex Wong Kah Tun and Jovaynne Teh had the honour of starting both matches simultaneously to win a point each and deliver victory for Malaysian Bar.
As expected both matches turned out to be the most exciting matches of the day.
The mixed doubles pair of Alex Wong Kah Tun and Jovaynne Teh drew first blood by playing superbly to take the first set easily with a score of 21–7. Things were different in the second set as the Singaporean pair tightened their game and both pairs traded point for point until finally the Malaysians nicked it at 26–24. A straight sets victory that was much tougher than the score line suggested. The Malaysian players were told to bring out their A game and this they did magnificently.
With the overall score now at 2–1 to Malaysian Bar, all the attention shifted to the ongoing titanic battle in the second men’s doubles. A win here would give Malaysian Bar an unassailable 3–1 lead.
Vincent and Chia started cautiously against the young Singaporean pair which put a solid defensive performance to repel the attacks from the Malaysians. Eventually the Malaysians won a tight first set with the score of 21–19. In the second set, it was neck and neck with the Malaysians making uncharacteristic unforced errors to lose 18–21. At this point, all the other players and spectators were in full voice as the game headed into a rubber set.
The Malaysians knew that winning the rubber set would give overall victory to Malaysian Bar, likewise the Singaporeans knew that if they won the rubber set, Singapore would have a very good chance to win the overall game since they fielded two strong players as their third men’s doubles. Both pairs went all out and at one point the Singaporean pair held game point at 17–20. With the vociferous supporters and team mates behind him, Vincent held his nerves and serves to take three consecutive points to force the set into deuce which was eventually won by the Malaysians with a score of 25–23 to give Malaysian Bar an unassailable 3–1 lead. Victory was achieved.
In the dead third men’s doubles, the Singaporean third men’s doubles pair salvaged some pride for Singapore when they beat Malaysia’s Jason Gopal and Keith Chin 16–21 and 19–21.
Final score on the day was a satisfying 3–2 victory in favour of Malaysian Bar.
As time was running out, the usual friendly games with mixed pairings from both sides were not held but instead both sides played friendly matches until it was time to go for supper treated by the gracious Singapore team.
I am extremely proud to be captain and convener of this fantastic Malaysian Bar Badminton Team who fought tooth and nail to deliver this must–win victory for Malaysian Bar. Finally, many thanks to each and every member of the team for their dedication in attending the weekly training sessions (16 sessions in total), the “Not today” attitude and support for one another. Will try our best to continue the winning streak next year!