KUALA LUMPUR: National singles shuttler Liew Daren is not overly concerned about being replaced by back-up player Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin for the Myanmar SEA Games next month.
In fact, Daren welcomes the decision as it means he can now focus on fully recovering from a niggling foot injury.
The injury restricted his court movements and resulted in first-round exits at the recent back-to-back Opens in Denmark and France.
He conceded a walkover to P. Kashyap of India at the Denmark Open in Odense and lost to Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand at the French Open in Paris.
As a result, his world ranking dropped from No. 20 to No. 29.
He will take part in the last two Super Series in China (Nov 12-17) and Hong Kong (Nov 19-24) but many do not expect him to go far in both competitions.
Daren only found out that he would not be going for the SEA Games on his return from Europe.
“In a way, it’s a good decision. It would put more strain on my foot if I had to compete in China, Hong Kong and the SEA Games,” he said.
“Now, without the SEA Games, I’ll have one month free in December.
“There is no pain now and I can train without any difficulties … but it does recur, especially when I least expect it. I will have time to look into this after the China and Hong Kong Opens.
“A good break from international competition in December will also allow me to start afresh the next season.”
In China, Daren has been drawn against French Open champion Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark in the first round.
“Based on current form, it looks tough but I have a good record against Jorgensen (2-1),”said Daren, who will leave for Shanghai on Sunday.
Meanwhile, national singles coach Rashid Sidek explained that Iskandar was chosen so as “to expose him to the big stage”.
The other men’s singles shuttler named for the SEA Games is world No. 17 Chong Wei Feng.
“Wei Feng has been more consistent than Daren this year and has been included for the Games. As coaches, we felt that it was time to push a back-up shuttler to the fore,” said Rashid.
“It was a toss-up between Goh Soon Huat and Iskandar … and we chose Iskandar. Soon Huat has undergone surgery for a growth on his head and is recovering.”
Malaysia have yet to win the men’s singles gold in the SEA Games since Mohd Roslin Hashim’s feat at the 2001 edition in Kuala Lumpur.