KUALA LUMPUR: National singles chief coach Rashid Sidek will be on a double mission at the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC), which begins today in New Delhi.
He will have to take over Hendrawan’s duties, including charting the strategies of the singles players, headed by Mohd Hafiz Hashim, after the Indonesian coach was prevented from making the trip to India because of visa problems.
And Rashid will also be busy collecting data on the Thomas Cup rival teams.
For a start, his main target is Japan, who are in Group B with Malaysia and Nigeria in the Finals, which will be held at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil from May 9-16.
He will also be keeping an eye on China, South Korea and Indonesia, who are using the ABC to finalise their respective teams.
With the ABC being the last championships before the Finals and the last one offering ranking points towards qualification for the World Championships in Paris in August, matches are expected to be keenly contested.
Rashid hopes to accomplish both his missions successfully.
“The ABC have attracted some of the big names, including Lin Dan of China and Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia. It will be really challenging for our players in the men’s singles event,” he said.
“I will be happy if one or two of our players make it to at least the quarter-finals.
“Of course, attention will be on Hafiz and a good showing from him will be a big boost towards our preparation for the Thomas Cup Finals.” Hafiz and top back-up shuttler Tan Chun Seang are in the same half of the draw as Lin Dan. The other four Malaysians – Chong Wei Feng, Chan Kwong Beng, Kuan Beng Hong and Lok Chong Chieh – are in the other half with Taufik.
If Lin Dan wins the tournament, he will be the first singles player for China in the Finals. Currently, he is the second ranked Chinese at world No. 5 behind Chen Jin (No. 2).
If all goes well, Hafiz is expected to take on Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam in the third round but it will be tough from the first round for others.
Chun Seang takes on Japanese Kazushi Yamada today while Beng Hong will play against the winner of the first-round match between Wei Feng and All-England runner-up Kenichi Tago of Japan.
Kwong Beng meets China’s Wang Zhengming while Chong Chieh takes on India’s Chetan Anand in their respective opening round matches.
“Japan have their best team at the ABC. Their singles players are beating the world’s best and we cannot expect to have a stroll against them any longer as in the past,” said Rashid.
“Indonesia are also looking at Tommy Sugiarto and Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka. We will keep an eye on them too. South Korea have fielded their younger batch of players and it will be good to know where they stand.
“It is an important week for all the teams. Some are fighting to restore the pecking order in the team competition (Thomas Cup Finals) and some others are fighting to gain entry into the World Championships. Matches will be tough from the first round.”