PETALING JAYA: Soon after a high in the season-opening Super Series Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil, national back-up singles player Liew Daren was brought down to earth with a thud in Seoul yesterday.
Daren failed to make the grade to the main draw of the Korean Open. The 22-year-old beat Taiwanese Liao Sheng-shiun 29-27, 21-6 in his first match of the qualifying tournament but fell to a 21-16, 7-21, 15-21 defeat by South Korean Shon Wan-ho.
It was only last week that Daren had earned praises from singles chief coach Rashid Sidek for making his way from the qualifying round to reach the quarter-finals of the Malaysian Open.
He had scored an upset over top Thai Boonsak Ponsana in the opening round before bowing out to Danish veteran Peter-Gade Christensen.
Rashid did not expect Daren to fumble at the final qualifying hurdle of the second-leg Super Series tournament.
“Skill and standard wise, he is better than the South Korean and should have won,” said Rashid in a telephone interview from Seoul yesterday.
“He played well in the first game but the aggressive qualities were missing in the second game. He started well again in the rubber and led 11-5 but then allowed the opponent to control him. This is the problem with our players. They are mentally not strong enough to come back when they are down.”
Two other back-up squad player were assured an extended stay in Seoul following a spate of withdrawals. Mohd Arif Abdul Latif and Tan Chun Seang Arif did not have to play in the qualifying tournament, benefiting from the no-show of Indonesians Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Taufik Hidayat.
Also giving the event a miss are KLRC Bhd’s Lee Tsuen Seng and former Malaysian number one Roslin Hashim.
Sony was the second seed but pulled out after failing to recover from a thigh injury suffered in the Malaysian Open.
Arif replaces Sony in the draw and has a first-round match today against India’s Anand Pawar.
Chun Seang will start against Japanese Sho Sasaki.
Top seed Lee Chong Wei, gunning for an unprecedented third straight title this week, will also have to be on guard as South Korean junior Hong Ji-hoon could made life difficult for him.
The world No. 1 won the Super Series Masters Finals in Kota Kinabalu last month and went on to retain the Malaysian Open title.
The other Malaysians in the men’s singles fray are Chong Wei Feng, Kuan Beng Hong and Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
In the women’s singles, Lydia Cheah and Julia Wong takes on Indonesia’s Pia Zebadiah Bernadet and India’s Aditi Mutatkar respectively in first-round matches.
Former national doubles pairs Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng, seeded fifth and sixth respectively, face stiff Korean tests.
Tan Fook-Wan Wah take on Ko Sung-hyun-Kwon Yi-goo while Chong Ming-Choon Eng will be up against Kim Ki-eung-Kim Ki-jung.