PETALING JAYA: Independent shuttler Liew Daren will try to hold the fort for Malaysia in the absence of Lee Chong Wei but said the spotlight should be on the youngsters, not him.
The 31-year-old is the second-highest ranked Malaysian in the world rankings behind No. 4 Chong Wei, who is out of action indefinitely after being diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer. Daren is lying at the 30th spot.
Daren proved he still has the fire in his belly by delivering an unexpected bronze after losing to eventual champion Kento Momota of Japan in the semi-finals at the World Championships in Nanjing, China, last month.
With the likes of up-and-coming Lee Zii Jia and Leong Jun Hao remaining works in progress and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin continuing to struggle, Daren is aware of his responsibility as the national No. 2.
“I’m no longer with the national team but I still represent Malaysia when I’m out there competing,” said Daren ahead of the Korean Open starting today.
“I always do my best in each tournament, always strive to do the country proud.”
However, Daren said the onus was now on Zii Jia and Jun Hao to expedite their progress and prove themselves as potential world beaters.
“Zii Jia and Jun Hao should take this as a challenge and step up. The focus should be on them.
“For me, I’m just enjoying competing now without much pressure. It’s different for them.
“I’ve been in their shoes before, and I know how tough it can be. It’s going to be even tougher without Chong Wei now.
“They need to start producing results immediately, they don’t have the luxury of time anymore,” added the 2012 French Open champion.
Daren and another former international Chong Wei Feng were touted as Chong Wei’s successors but failed to do so and left the national set-up.
Daren hopes Zii Jia and Co will seize the moment.
“If I can turn back the clock, I will... I’ve changed my mindset and I’m more mature now,” said Daren.
“We tend to be dependent on the coaches and association when we were young.
“My message to the young players is don’t ever take things for granted. Work extra hard and don’t just rely on the coaches for guidance. Players have to take their own initiative too in order to be successful.”
For the Korean Open, Daren has vowed to bounce back from his dismal outing at the Indonesian Asian Games after losing in the first round last month.
He will open his campaign against a qualifier tomorrow and may meet either South Korean veteran Lee Hyun-il or Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia in the second round.
The other Malaysian men’s singles players in the fray are Wei Feng and Iskandar.
Also competing are Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani, Chooi Kah Ming-Low Juan Shen and Arif Abdul Latif-Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub (men’s doubles); Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and Vivian Hoo-Yap Cheng Wen (women’s doubles); and Chen Tang Jie-Peck Yen Wei (mixed doubles).