PETALING JAYA: Not even an ankle injury could stop the independent shuttler from continuing his dream run to reach the men’s singles semi-finals at the World Championships.
Despite being in pain, the 30-year-old defied the odds to beat Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama 22-20, 21-23, 22-20 in 80 minutes to seal his ticket for today’s semis.
Midway through the second game, it seemed to be all over for Daren when he slipped and fell while attempting to return a shot at the net. The match was tied 13-13.
He was grimacing in pain and called for medical assistance.
After the brief treatment, Daren got back to his feet but he was limping. Finishing the second game seemed doubtful, let alone winning the match but Daren continued to fight.
Tsuneyama made it 16-14 but Daren stepped up his game to lead 20-18 and 21-20 but failed to make the most of his three match points as the Japanese fought back to force a decider.
Daren came back even stronger and showed no signs of being bothered by his pain.
He opened up a commanding 8-2 lead and never relinquished his lead although a stubborn Tsuneyama saved three match points at 20-17 to level the contest for the very first time in the game.
But Daren, who had the great support of the crowd, made no mistakes this time as he trooped home the deserving winner and earned a standing ovation.
Daren was relieved to reach the semis.
“It was really painful when I fell. I couldn’t push myself too much because of the pain,” said Daren.
“When I resumed play, Kanta was able to pick up a few points to take the lead but I gave it a try to give him a chase.
“Fortunately, when I played on, I realised that I did not feel the pain much and I was able to play my normal game again.”
Asked if he had thought of retiring from the match, he said: “There’s no such thing as giving up at this stage. Not unless I can’t move or walk, I told myself I got to finish the match.
“The cheers I received from the stands also encouraged me and boosted my spirit.
“This is definitely one of the greatest moments of my career,” said the 2012 French Open champion.
On his semi-final today either against Kento Momota of Japan or B. Sai Praneeth of India, he said: “Hopefully, I’ll get better after tonight and come back in good condition tomorrow.”
“I couldn’t ask for more. I’m so satisfied with how things have panned out so far. I’ll keep marching on!