MOHD Hafiz Hashim (pic) had made a thorough preparation for the Malaysian Open. But it was a miserable start to the season for him, crashing to a very demoralising first-round defeat at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
It was also the end of the road for seasoned campaigner Wong Choong Hann and back-up shuttlers Chan Kwong Beng and Tan Chun Seang.
And it was world No. 1 and top seed Lee Chong Wei who saved the blushes for Malaysia on the first day of action in the second leg Super Series men’s singles competition, advancing to the second round in superb style.
Chong Wei, who won the Korean Open last Sunday, will take on China’s Du Pengyu, who chalked up an upset 21-16, 21-17 win over last year’s runner-up Park Sung-hwan of South Korea.
Chong Wei, who showed great confidence in a clinical 21-14, 21-4 win over England’s Rajiv Ouseph in 30 minutes, said: “It was a good start for me in this tournament. It was my first match and I took time to soak in the atmosphere in the stadium.
“It’s a surprise that I will be playing against Pengyu instead of Sung-hwan. But I will not under-estimate the Chinese youngster even though I beat him twice last year (at the China Open and Hong Kong Open). He can be quite defensive.
“Most of my team-mates have been eliminated and will have to keep up the Malaysian challenge ... I will give my best.”
Chong Wei was joined in the second round by Chong Wei Feng, who advanced with a 21-19, 21-17 victory over Frenchman Brice Leverdez.
It was Hafiz’s 19-21, 21-15, 14-21 defeat by Taiwan’s Hsieh Yu-hsing that gained a lot of attention yesterday.
Hopes were high on him to join Chong Wei in challenging strongly in the tournament but he could not cope with the blistering pace set by the Taiwanese.
And a dejected Hafiz said: “It was not my game at all. He played quite well and I could not challenge him at the net. It was difficult for me to play from the baseline.
“This is my first tournament for the year and I wanted so much to get off to a good start.
“I am so upset with myself because I have had the best preparation and yet I could not achieve the desired results.
“Hopefully, I will be able to give better performances in the German Open and All-England.
“I need to raise my confidence again ahead for the task in the Thomas Cup Finals (in Bukit Jalil in May).”
Besides Sung-hwan, the other notable casualties in the men’s singles yesterday were former Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, Denmark’s Joachim Persson and China’s Chen Long.
Women’s singles shuttler Wong Mew Choo was all smiles after making it to the second round but Lydia Cheah let slip a good chance to join in the fun.
Mew Choo recovered from a lapse of concentration in the opening game to beat Indonesia’s Linda Weni Fanerti 22-20, 21-14 and she will play against South Korean qualifier Sung Ji-hyun today for a place in the quarter-finals.
Mew Choo is aware of the tough time in store against Ji-hyun and said: “I was a first-round casualty in the Korean Open but she went all the way to the final. She will not be a pushover.”
Lydia muffed the chance to upstage second seed Wang Lin of China and went out of the competition with a 14-21, 21-19, 10-21 defeat.
Lydia was in better control of herself and did well to pressure the Chinese with good attacking strokes but eventually ran out of steam in the decider.
The other two Malaysian women, Julia Wong and Yang Li Lian, bowed out tamely.
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