Coach Hendrawan believes his charge can be a champ again

PETALING JAYA: The stage is set for men’s singles shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim to be a champion again.

And national coach Hendrawan wants Hafiz to be brave enough to seize the opportunity at the German Open, which will be held in Mulheim from March 2-7.

A good outing in Germany should give Hafiz the confidence to face tougher challenges in the All-Eng­land at Birmingham from March 9-14.

Hafiz, who last won a title at the Philippines Open in 2006, is seeded eighth in the German Open and, barring any upsets, should make his way to the quarter-finals, at least.

He is in the lower half of the draw with second seed Chen Long of China, Taiwan’s Hsieh Yu-hsing (fifth seed) and three European trouble-makers – Germany’s Marc Zwiebler (fourth), England’s Andrew Smith (ninth) and Poland’s Wacha Przemyslaw (13th).

Hafiz’s first challenge will be against Smith in the third round.

Three Malaysians – Wong Choong Hann, Tan Chun Seang and Kuan Beng Hong – are in the top half with top seed Bao Chunlai of China.

Choong Hann, Chun Seang and Beng Hong still have a chance to represent Malaysia in the Thomas Cup Finals if they do well in Europe.

Most of the world’s top 10 players, including Lee Chong Wei, have skipped the German Open to focus on the All-England.

Hendrawan said that “Hafiz has what it takes to become a champion again”.

“There is a chance for Hafiz in the German Open and I really hope that he will be bold enough to go all the way for the title,” said Hendrawan.

“He has to have the self-belief to make a difference in this GP Gold Open tournament.

“I will give all the encouragement he needs to be successful. A good outing should give him a great boost to face the daunting task in the All-England.”

In the All-England, Hafiz has been lumped in the bottom half of the draw with three of China’s top players – Lin Dan, Chen Jin and Chunlai – Yu-shing, Denmark’s Joachim Persson and Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh.

“For now, it is better for Hafiz to focus on the German Open. He will take on Yu-hsing in the first round and it will be great if he can avenge his defeat to the Taiwanese,” said Hendrawan.

Hafiz suffered a big blow to his morale in his first international tournament this year when he went down fighting to Yu-hsing in the first round of the Malaysian Open last month.

“I do not want to look too far ahead into the All-England just yet. It’s quite tough with all the top three Chinese players there. But a good showing in Germany will certainly give Hafiz the confidence to stretch his opponents in England,” said Hendrawan.

A good showing in Europe will also put Hafiz in good stead ahead of the Thomas Cup Finals, which will be held at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil from May 9-16.

The German-bound team will leave for Mulheim tomorrow.

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