INCHEON CITY (South Korea): The honeymoon period for shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim is now truly over. The All-England champion suffered another shock early exit, crashing out in the first round of the five-star Korean Open at the Dowon Indoor Stadium here yesterday.
Hafiz, who lost to China’s Chen Yu in the second round of the Japan Open last week, fell to an unfancied Hong Kong player this time – Yohan Hadikusuma Wiratama.
Yohan, who is ranked 101st in the world, scored a come-from-behind 10-15, 15-9, 15-8 win over the 19th-ranked Hafiz in a 90-minute match.
The defeat yesterday dashed Hafiz’s hopes of being among the 16 seeds for the World Championships, which will be played in Birmingham next month.
In the absence of the Chinese players from the Korean Open, Hafiz had harboured hopes of reaching at least the semi-finals to boost his confidence for the World Championships.
Hafiz was not the only Malaysian to lose to a Hong Kong player in the first round.
National champion Lee Chong Wei, competing in his second international competition for the year, was beaten 7-15, 15-4, 9-15 by seasoned campaigner Ng Wei.
Chong Wei also lost to the same player in the opening round of the All-England in February.
The other Malaysians who failed to get past the first round were Sairul Amar Ayob, Yong Hock Kin and Pei Wei Chung.
Sairul was beaten 5-15, 7-15 by South Korean Park Seong-hwan 5-15, 7-15 while Hock Kin also went down to a home player, Shon Seung-mo, at 10-15, 4-15.
Denmark’s former world champion Peter Rasmussen did not have to break sweat to beat Wei Chung 15-4, 15-2.
But it was not all gloom for Malaysia with four players advancing to the second round.
Ong Ewe Hock defeated reigning world champion H. Hendrawan of Indonesia 15-8, 15-3 to set up a second round match against Andrew Smith of England. The Malaysian veteran had beaten the English player in the Japan Open last week.
Hafiz’s elder brother Roslin also did not have any problem clearing the first round hurdle, beating Taiwanese Huang Chien-jung 15-8, 15-3 to earn a second round match against top seed Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark.
Yeoh Kay Bin advanced with a 15-12, 11-15, 15-4 win over Korean Heo Hoon-hoi while Ismail Saman also needed three games to eliminate Japanese Matsumoto Tooru 15-10, 10-15, 15-4.