KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s bid to retain the men’s singles title at the Malaysian Masters in Sibu has taken a nosedive.
Yesterday, national No. 2 Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin was forced to pull out of the second-tier tournament after failing to recover from a back injury. The 25-year-old picked up the injury on Monday.
The Grand Prix Gold tournament starts on Wednesday.
Malaysia were counting on Iskandar to retain the title. Last season, he defied the odds to reach the final before losing to compatriot Lee Chong Wei in Penang.
Chong Wei is not defending the title. The world No. 1 will only return to competition at the All-England in March.
Iskandar was disappointed to give the tournament a miss, saying that a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scan revealed that he was suffering from a minor slipped disc and muscle tear on his back.
“I assessed my condition over the last few days ... it wasn’t good,” lamented Iskandar.
He, however, hopes to be back on his feet soon or his world ranking will take a beating. He’s the world No. 23 but will lose valuable ranking points for skipping the Malaysian Masters.
Iskandar has also been entered for the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from Feb 14-19 and the All-England in Birmingham from March 7-12.
“I’m still not sure whether I will be ready for the mixed team event. But I hope to take part in my first All-England,” he said.
“I’ll have to focus on my rehabilitation. I’ve also been advised to improve on my posture as I’ve the tendency to hunch,” added Iskandar, who stands at 1.74m.
In Iskandar’s absence in Sibu, Malaysia will now depend on national champion Lim Chi Wing, Lee Zii Jia, Chong Yee Han, R. Satheishtharan, Soong Joo Ven, Cheam June Wei and Soo Teck Zhi. The other independent men’s singles shuttlers competing are the Zulkiffli brothers Zulfadli and Zulhelmi, Chong Wei Feng, Chiang Jiann Shiarng, Goh Giap Chin and Tan Chun Seang.