Shuttler Hafiz looks forward to 2007 to revive flagging career (pic)

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BY RAJES PAUL

KUALA LUMPUR: The year 2006 was one of the eventful years for world badminton but Malaysia's men's singles shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim would rather forget it.

After going through one of the worst patches in his badminton career this season, Hafiz is determined to get his act right next year by narrowing the widening gap with some of the top players in the world.

HAFIZ: I will emphasise on a thinking game in my plan to revive my badminton career next year

For now, Hafiz has only two assignments more for the year but in his current poor condition, he is unlikely to make an impact in the ongoing Kuala Lumpur Open and the invitational Copenhagen Masters from Dec 27-29.

Yesterday, the 24-year-old Hafiz, who is recovering from flu, defeated Kuala Lumpur's Leow Hew 21-3, 21-9 in the first round of the Kuala Lumpur leg of the National Grand Prix Circuit at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium (KLBA).

Barring any upsets, the second seeded Hafiz is expected to meet national number one Lee Chong Wei in the final.

Chong Wei, who is determined to keep his five-year unbeaten record intact in local tournaments, blew away Selangor's Ho Khee Kong 21-6, 21-2 in just 10 minutes yesterday.

Now ranked 10th in the world, Hafiz, who won only the Philippines Open this year, vows to come out of the rut.

I was able to maintain my world rankings this year and there was no outstanding result from me. I was not able to beat any of the top players, including Lin Dan (China), Taufik (Hidayat of Indonesia) and even Chong Wei, lamented Hafiz.

It was certainly not one of my best seasons since I won the All-England title (in 2003).

Due to nagging knee injuries, Hafiz was not able to display his full potential. Many times, he was criticised for lacking the fire to achieve great results.

In this year's All-England, Hafiz was a first-round casualty and due to his poor form, he was not selected to defend his title in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March.

In the Thomas Cup Finals in Japan, he could have played a more prominent role but went down fighting to Kenneth Jonassen in the semi-final tie against Denmark. Hope was high in the World Championships but he crashed out in the quarter-finals to eventual champion Lin Dan.

The most disappointing outing was at the recent Asian Games in Doha when he went down 20-22, 6-21 to Lee Hyun-il of South Korea in the quarter-finals even though he held a healthy lead in the first game.

Hafiz said that he had learnt his lesson.

I have worked hard to be physically in good shape for tournaments. But now, I will emphasise on a thinking game in my plan to revive my badminton career next year, he said.

I had a good lead against Hyun-il in Doha but I had allowed him to get back into the game. I did not know how to come out of trouble. I must be able to think fast and maintain control throughout the match.

Next year, Hafiz wants to be a regular feature in the Super Series and qualify for the World Championships. But most of all, he wants to be a player to be reckoned with on the world stage.

(source: TheStarOnline)

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