Hafiz’s a shining star ‘


BY LIM TEIK HUAT

KUALA LUMPUR: National singles coach Rashid Sidek is tipping shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim to scale greater heights. 

And Rashid believes that the newly-crowned All-England winner is a future world champion, judging from the nature of his game. 

“Hafiz plays a thinking game and has a very calm mind when he goes on court. He knows how to preserve his energy and studies his opponent at the same time,” said the former Malaysian number one, who is now one of the coaches taking charge of the 20-year-old Hafiz. 

“His ability to pace himself also reduces the risk of getting serious injuries. He seldom gets injured and this is another advantage for him. 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Mohd Hafiz Hashim, fresh from winning the elusive All-England singles titles lat month, is tipped as a potential world champion.

“With his style of game, Hafiz has a great future. He will go far and I believe he will win more titles.” 

Rashid advises Hafiz not to let the pressure affect him when he features in his first World Championships in two months' time. 

Based on current form, the Nusa Mahsuri player is expected to be among the three Malaysia men's singles players for the world meet, which will be played in Birmingham from May 12-18. Hafiz won the All-England at the same venue last month. 

Singles head coach Misbun Sidek will announce the names of the three players for the World Championships after the morning training session on Thursday. The other players vying for the places are Wong Choong Hann, Lee Tsuen Seng and Mohd Roslin Hashm. 

Ahead of the World Championships, Hafiz is among the nine Malaysian singles player to compete in the Japan Open. 

The Japan Open, scheduled for April 1-6, is expected to attract a strong field and is considered a preview of the World Championships. 

A good showing in the Japan Open will earn Hafiz a good seeding in the World Championships. 

The win over world number one Chen Hong in straight games in the All-England final has moved Hafiz 15 places up to 16th in the world rankings. 

“The expectations of the Malaysian public on him will be enormous,” said Rashid. 

“He became the first Malaysian player to win the All-England title after 37 years and now everyone expects him to win all the time. This is a fact when it comes to Malaysian sports. For this reason, it is important for Hafiz not to succumb to the pressure. 

“It's best for him to take it easy. If he gets to play in the World Championships, he should just savour his first outing and play his normal game. If he does that, I am sure he can create surprises.” 

When it comes to the World Championships, Hafiz can certainly learn a thing or two from Rashid. 

Rashid is still the only Malaysian singles player to reach the quarter-finals in the world's premier individual competition. 

In his debut in the 1987 tournament in Beijing, Rashid was not expected to go far but made it to the last eight, losing to Denmark's Morten Frost Hansen. Rashid was also a quarter-finalist in the 1995 tournament in Lausanne. 

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