KUALA LUMPUR: National coach Hendrawan has not written off men’s singles shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin’s chances in the Myanmar SEA Games although it will be his first appearance.
Malaysia have named Iskandar and Chong Wei Feng for the badminton competition in the biennial Games from Dec 9-14.
Hendrawan believes that Iskandar has a good chance of delivering a medal – especially when some of the other countries are not sending their best players.
Indonesia, for example, have named Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka and Wisnu Yuli Prasetyo for the Games because their top two players – Tommy Sugiarto and Sony Dwi Kuncoro – are in the running to qualify for the BWF World Super Series Finals at the KLBA Stadium in Cheras from Dec 11-15.
Both the SEA Games and the Super Series Finals will be held concurrently and even Thailand are expected to send their second stringers to the Games. Their top two players – Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and Boonsak Ponsana – are expected to take part in the Finals.
Hendrawan said that the 22-year-old Iskandar, who reached the quarter-finals of the Korean Open Grand Prix Gold last month, has improved.
“One should not rule out Iskandar as a worthy opponent despite his lack of experience. This trip to Myanmar is not an exposure outing for him ... I believe he has a chance to come good,” said Hendrawan
In a bid to give Iskandar a good platform to warm up for the Games, Hendrawan has entered him for the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold from Nov 26-Dec 1.
In the Macau Open, Iskandar has been drawn in the top half of the draw with top seed Kenichi Tago of Japan, Thailand’s Suppanyu Avihingsanon, Germany’s Marc Zwiebler, Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki and Taiwan’s Hsu Jen-hao.
Iskandar is the only player in the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) fold to feature in the Macau Open.
Another player, Loh Wei Sheng, has withdrawn from the tournament after picking up an injury at the Malaysian International Challenge in Kuching last month.
The other prominent Malaysian players in the fray are former Asian and World junior champion Zulfadli Zulkiffli and three former internationals – Tan Chun Seang, Kuan Beng Hong and Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
“We hope that Iskandar will do well in the Macau Open and be psyched up for the SEA Games,” said Hendrawan.
The coach also announced that six other back-up players – Chong Yee Han, Tan Kian Ming, Mohd Azriyn Ayub, Goh Giap Chin, Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi – will be sent for the Vietnam Open Grand Prix Gold from Dec 2-8 in Ho Chi Minh City.
It will be the last international tournament for the second stringers this year.