Daren happy to be back in Paris – the place he won Superseries title

PETALING JAYA: Gay Paree is one place that holds happy and joyful memories for Malaysia’s world No. 35 shuttler Liew Daren (pic).

The then 25-year-old reached the pinnacle of his career – by capturing the only Superseries title with a 21-18, 21-17 victory over Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen – in the final of the French Open at the Pierre de Coubertin Stadium in Paris.

Sadly, that remarkable career-changing victory on Oct 26, 2012, failed to spark Daren’s revival as he continued to struggle for form and consistency before quitting the national team in early 2016.

For the record, Axelsen went on to become the 2017 world champion and 2020 Olympic champion.

Daren’s pro career hit a high when he bagged a bronze at the World Championships in Nanjing in 2018 to become the third Malaysian medallist in the men’s singles event besides Lee Chong Wei and Wong Choong Hann.

“I wouldn’t say I have regrets. I see this part of my life journey,” said Daren as he prepares for his opener against world No. 13 Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan in the French Open.

“It’s not like everyone can be as successful as Datuk Lee (Chong Wei), right?

“But if there’s something I could have done differently, I think it is to not put too much pressure on myself that caused my downfall at that time.

“If only I could play with my current state of mind at that time, the outcome could have been different.”

Still, Daren can never forget that one memorable week in Paris. He defeated higher ranked opponents such as Sho Sasaki of Japan, Hu Yun (Hong Kong) and Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark) en route to the final.

There was no Chong Wei as well as Chinese stars Lin Dan and Chen Jin but for Daren, the victory meant the world to him.

“I’m always thrilled to be back here in Paris. The moment I stepped into the venue, it brings back all the great memories nine years ago,” said Daren.

“There’s no way I’m going to forget it because winning the French Open for my only Superseries title was the biggest highlight of my career. It may not be big for Malaysians because Datuk Lee has won it week in, week out, but it was massive for me.

“Of all the matches, I really enjoyed my win over Hu Yun as it was my first win over him at that time. Then the tournament was also best remembered for the great Dane Peter Gade-Christensen’s last tournament before his retirement.

“Hopefully I can roll back the years and rediscover some of my form in 2012 in the very same arena this week.”

Daren made it to the last 16 before being ousted by compatriot Lee Zii Jia in Denmark last week but he’s buoyant after the first round win over world No. 19 Hans Kristian Vittinghus.

“That’s the reason why I play on. I feel I can beat any higher-ranked players on my best days,” he said.

“It’s the same against Kanta this week. Our battles have always been close and I believe I stand a chance against him.”

If he progresses, Daren could face either Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long or Dutchman Mark Caljouw.

Zii Jia is the other Malaysian men’s singles in the fray, facing childhood rival Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the first round.

In the men’s doubles, at least two Malaysia pairs are assured of places in the last 16 as the draw pitted two all-Malaysian affair matches.

Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik will face Goh V Shem-Low Juan Shen while Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani take on Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi. Tan Kian Meng-Tan Wee Kiong are the only exception, they have Germany’s Marvin Seidel-Mark Lamsfuss as their first opponents.

Also in the fray are three women’s doubles pairs – Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah, Lee Meng Yean-Yap Cheng Wen and Vivian Hoo-Lim Chiew Sien as well as five mixed doubles pairs – Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See and Chen Tang Jie-Peck Yen Wei.

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