PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian team were given a blow yesterday when Mohd Hafiz Hashim pulled out from the US$120,000 Proton Malaysian Open due to a nagging knee injury.
National chief coach Yap Kim Hock confirmed that the reigning Philippines Open Hafiz, the joint fifth-eighth seed, has withdrawn from the four-star tournament.
“Hafiz's pain in the knee is back. It is best for him to go for rehabilitation rather than competing in the tournament. For now, he will only skip the Malaysian Open. We do not want to take any risk ahead of the World Championships (Sept 18-24 in Madrid),” said Kim Hock.
The tournament starts tomorrow at the Stadium Perpaduan in Kuching.
In Hafiz's absence, Malaysia will be counting on two-time Malaysian Open champion Chong Wei, the second seed, to bring the cheer to the Malaysian camp.
And Chong Wei is hoping to use the platform to make amends on his third round exit at the Indonesian Open last week.
“There has not been good results lately and hopefully, I will be able to bring back some cheer. I was morally down after the early round defeat and was struggling to find my form in training. I plan to regain my confidence with a good showing in the Malaysian Open,” said Chong Wei.
The Penangite however, admitted that it would not be easy to win the men's singles title for the third time.
Chong Wei is expected to meet China's Chen Hong in the quarter-finals. If he clears the hurdle, he may play against one of these players – Singapore Open runner-up Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark or Lee Hyun-il of South Korea – in the last four.
Chong Wei has met Chen Hong seven times - winning only twice at their last encounter in the All-England this year and the 2004 Malaysian Open. He has also won only twice in six of his meeting with Hyun-il but against Jonassen, Chong Wei holds a 2-2 record.
Without Hafiz in the top half of the draw, the fight for the final spot will be between top seed Lin Dan of China and reigning Singapore Open champion Peter Gade-Christensen.
However, Gade-Christensen's hope to set up a possible meeting with Lin Dan may be spoiled by youngster Chen Jin of China. The Dane is expected to meet Chen Jin in the last eight.
Although the hope is only on Chong Wei to continue with Malaysia's good tradition in the home Open, Kim Hock hoped that the other players would come to the fore.
“We are also counting on (Kuan) Beng Hong to do well. And besides, we also have many Project Squad 2010-12 players under Rashid (Sidek's) competing. We hope to see some upsets,” he added.
Beng Hong has a tricky first round encounter against China's Zhu Weilun. If he clears it, he is expected to take on Jonassen.
Some of Rashid's players who have the potential to spring surprises are Kedah Malaysian Games (Sukma) gold medallist Mohd Syafiq Jamaluddin, Law Yew Thien, Tan Chun Seang, Chong Wei Feng, Liew Daren and Lim Kenn.
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