By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: Mohd Hafiz Hashim represented the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) outfit in his first international tournament but there was little change in his fortunes as he crashed out in the first round of the China Masters in Changzhou yesterday.
Hafiz fell 21-17, 13-21, 20-22 to Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat after battling for 55 minutes to leave Malaysia with no representative after the first round of the men’s singles competition.
Hafiz was unfortunate to be drawn against the 2004 Olympic gold medallist but Taufik has been struggling of late and it was yet another missed opportunity for the Malaysian to stamp his mark in the absence of national No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, who skipped the event due to fatigue.
Except for a quarter-final appearance in the Asian Championships in April, Hafiz has failed to make it past the early rounds in six Open tournaments.
Starting the year as the second ranked Malaysian behind Chong Wei, Hafiz is now sixth in the national pecking order.
He is also set to slide further from his current 31st spot in the world rankings.
BAM general manager Kenny Goh said Hafiz will have to start proving himself like the others in the national team when it comes to selection for international meets.
“Hafiz is still a valuable asset as he can help the younger players in sparring to come up faster in the national team. But that does not mean that he can enjoy the ride. We will evaluate his performances over several tournaments and see whether he deserves his place,” said Kenny.
National men’s doubles pair Gan Teik Chai-Lin Woon Fui are through to the quarter-finals after the withdrawal of Japan’s Shuichi Sakamoto-Shintaro Ikeda.
Teik Chai-Woon Fui defeated Chan Io Chong-Lam Chi Man of Macau 21-5, 21-11 in the first round yesterday before being given a walkover by the Japanese pair.
But their progress could be halted as they are likely to face second seeds Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun of China, unless compatriots Hoon Thien How-Ong Soon Hock do them a favour by beating the Olympic silver medallists in the second round today.
The focus will be on the men’s doubles pairs Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Latif, who will begin their campaigns in the second round today. Both pairs enjoyed first round byes yesterday.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong, who have yet to reach the final in an international tournament this year, face a tricky tie against China’s back-up pair of Sun Junjie-Xu Chen today.
A win will pit them against either compatriots Mohd Razif Latif-Tan Wee Kiong or Indonesia’s Yonathan Dasuki-Rian Sukmawan in the last eight.
The under-performing Kien Keat-Boon Heong are in the same half with Cai Yun-Haifeng and their paths will cross only meet if both pairs make the semi-finals.
Fairuzizuan-Zakry will also be aiming to make amends for a second round defeat to Indonesian back-up pair Muhammad Ahsan-Bona Septano in the Japan Open last week.
Fairuzizuan-Zakry, winners of the Singapore and Indonesia Opens in June, begin their campaign against another Indonesian pair €” Hendra Gunawan-Joko Riyadi €” in the second round.
Malaysian women’s singles player Wong Mew Choo also has a stiff test in her opening match in the second round. Mew Choo, who had a bye in the first round, will take on world junior champion Wang Lin of China.