Badminton: Hafiz all fired up to do well in Asian meet

KUALA LUMPUR: Singles shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim aims to put up another good showing in next week’s Asian Badminton Cham­­­­pionships (ABC) in Suwon, South Korea, in a bid to extend his stay with the national team.

Just when many thought Hafiz’s career was dead and buried, the former Nusa Mahsuri shuttler surprised everyone with a much-improved performance en route to a runner-up finish at last week’s Indian Open in Hyderabad.

He defeated world junior champion Chen Long of China in the semi-finals but failed to overcome Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat for the title, which would have been his first in three years.

His performance in Hyderabad has seen him move from 32nd spot to 24th in the world rankings and it has now given Hafiz a slim chance of making the team for the World Championships, which will be held in India from Aug 10-16.

The best three in the top 24 bracket are assured of their places and three players are currently ranked ahead of him — world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann (No. 11) and Lee Tsuen Seng (19).

Hafiz acknowledged that it would take more than just one good performance to impress the national selectors, given his many disappointments over the last two years.

“I know that my place (in the national team) is still not guaranteed. I guess, the BAM want to be very sure with me before making a decision,” said Hafiz.

“I am also hoping that my performance in India is not a one-off thing. I still love badminton and I went all out there to save my career.”

And the former All-England champion is looking beyond the ABC. which will begin on Wednesday.

“I have a lot to gain if I can maintain my form at the ABC. I will get to keep my place in the national team and even be considered for the world meet. These are my motivation to do well in Suwon,” he said.

“But like many, I am also hoping to be consistent throughout the year.”

At the ABC, Hafiz will have to reach at least the quarter-finals to be worthy of a place in the national team.

He is in the same quarter with Chen Long and Taiwan’s Hsieh Yu-shin. He is expected to meet Chen Long in the second round.

Hafiz and all the other Malaysian players, including the four back-up shuttlers — Tan Chung Seang, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Chong Wei Feng and Liew Daren — will leave for South Korea today.

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