Defending champion Iskandar eyes revival at Malaysia Masters

KUALA LUMPUR: Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (pic) is desperate to revive his flagging badminton career.

And what better place to get it right than at his most memorable tournament – the upgraded Perodua Malaysia Masters from Jan 16-21 at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur Sports City.

His career went downhill within 20 months since winning last year’s Masters in Penang.

He was touted as a player for the future but failed to live up to expectations with early exits in lower ranked European tournaments.

His dip in form raised questions whether he has what it takes to become a top-class shuttler.

His world ranking has also seen a drastic drop from No. 23 to No. 63.

“My form has dipped and I’m low on confidence,” admitted Iskandar after Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd announced their sponsorship for the Perodua Malaysia Masters in a ceremony at the Sime Darby Convention Centre yesterday.

“It’s been a tough year but I’ve not given up hope. I want to build up my confidence by playing in smaller tournaments.”

Iskandar’s struggle is understandable. He picked up a back injury in February which took him four months before he made a return to competition.

“I had thoughts of giving up before but not now. I believe I can find my way back to the top again. My coaches Hendrawan and Datuk Misbun Sidek are giving me 100% support.

“I did well at the Malaysia Masters last year. It’ll be great to get it right again next year,” he added.

The Masters will offer the biggest prize money, thanks to its promotion to a level three tournament under the Badminton World Federation’s new tournament structure.

The prize money has been increased from US$120,000 (RM507,500) to US$350,000 (RM1.5mil).

The tournament will be hosted for the first time at the Axiata Arena and 192 players from 20 nations are expected to take part.