KUALA LUMPUR: A lot is at stake for singles shuttler Liew Daren when he takes part in the back-to-back German Open Grand Prix Gold in Mulheim from Feb 25-March 2 and the All-England from March 4-9 in Birmingham.
A good showing in these Europe tournaments will strengthen his position as one of the members of the team for the Thomas Cup Finals in May in New Delhi. It will restore his self-confidence and it will also stop his world ranking from slipping further.
Based on the draw for the German Open released on Tuesday and in the absence of players from China in the tournament, world No. 36 Daren has a good chance to redeem himself.
Daren, who is the only Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) singles player going for the GP Gold, has been drawn in the same quarter as third-seed Hu Yun of Hong Kong and 11th seed Rajiv Ouseph of England.
If he goes through, he is expected to face one of these former world junior champions – Kento Momota of Japan or Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen.
Looking at their recent form, Kento and Axelsen will be tough nuts to crack. But if Daren survives the quarter-final hurdle, he will probably set up an intriguing match with world No. 3 and top seed Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia in the last four.
Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand is also participating and he is seeded second.
The other Malaysian singles players competing in the German Open are all former internationals – Tan Chun Seang, Chan Kwong Beng, Misbun Ramdan Misbun and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif – who will start from the main draw.
“I am looking at the German Open to revive my fortunes a little,” said Daren, who suffered an ankle injury during the Denmark Open in October and then pulled a hamstring during the China Open in November.
“In the Malaysian Open last month, I was so worried about getting injured again that I was unable to play my own game. I am better now and this time, I am going to play with more confidence,” said Daren.
At the home tournament, 2012 French Open champion Daren lost to China’s Du Pengyu in the opening round at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
“China players are skipping this tournament and based on the draw, I believe I have a good chance to go to the quarter-finals. It will get tougher from there as some younger players have moved up the ranks.
“Kento played quite well at last month’s Malaysian Open (lost 20-22, 20-22 to Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark in the quarter-finals). He has improved and I must be wary of him.
“My world ranking has dropped quite a bit and I need good results to stop it from sliding further. I intend to bring it back to the top 20 so that I will be able to qualify for the Superseries tournaments without having to go through the qualifying tournaments,” said Daren, who was once ranked 12th in the world.
In the All-England (Superseries Premier), he is unseeded and will have to start from the qualifying tournament. The draw for the prestigious tournament will be released next Tuesday.
If Daren shows better composure and performances in these two Europe stints, he is as good as confirmed to play for Malaysia in the Thomas Cup Finals. Two others set to feature in the men’s team event are world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei and world No. 16 Chong Wei Feng.