Chen beats Hafiz in match befitting a final

Discussion in 'Singapore / Indonesia / Malaysia Open 2003' started by rejang, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. rejang

    rejang Regular Member

    Apr 27, 2002
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    Chen beats Hafiz in match befitting a final
    But only 150 watch world No 1 avenge his loss in the All-England

    By G. Sivakkumaran

    IT WAS a match-up that any tournament would have been proud to bill as the final - world No 1 Chen Hong against reigning All-England champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim.

    A lapse in concentration costs Hafix Hashim the second game and the match against Chen Hong. -- ONG CHIN KAI
    And to add fizz to that encounter is a Chen out to erase the memory of that day six months ago when the Malaysian beat him 17-14, 15-10 to claim the All-England singles crown in Birmingham.

    But as the luck of the draw would have it, the two met in the first round of the Yonex-Sunrise Singapore Open at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.

    The match, played at 9 am, saw only a paltry turn-out of some 150 fans - mostly Chinese nationals and Malaysians who were rooting for their respective heroes.

    The clash of the two titans however lived up to expectations, and deserved a much bigger audience, perhaps the 2,000 who were present to watch the qualifiers for free on Monday.

    The defending champion Chen put on a dazzling display of attacking badminton to subdue 20-year-old Hafiz 15-11, 17-14 in 63 minutes.

    Later in the evening, he beat England's Colin Haughton 15-8, 15-4 to reach the third round.

    Hafiz, who is ranked 33 spots below Chen in the world rankings, threatened to repeat his feat in England after racing into a 5-0 lead in the first game and dropping service only once.

    That was the wake-up call for the world's top player.

    A powerful smash to Hafiz's right won him the service, and a lob that the Malaysian returned into the net got him his first point.

    The 23-year-old Chinese maestro then added another seven in quick succession.

    He edged ahead 11-9 with a whispering drop-shot that went just over the net. It went 13-11 in the top seed's favour and he wrapped up the game in 30 minutes with his trademark smashing.

    The second game lasted three minutes longer, and the tone was set by the fight for the first point which required nine service changes before Chen went 1-0 up and then raced to a 6-1 lead.

    But his younger opponent fought back. Hafiz's smash into the right corner made it 2-6, then Chen misjudged a lob that was in to give the Malaysian another point.

    Another mistake, this time a shot sent wide, made it 4-6.

    Hafiz was into his stride now and even more errors by Chen allowed the Malaysian to forge ahead to 10-6.

    But Chen did not panic, wiping away his sweat before winning back service with a powerful smash, then quickly levelling the game 10-10.

    That was the signal for a see-saw battle, as both players matched each other point for point until Hafiz took a 14-13 lead, raising the hopes of his supporters.

    A Malaysian fan shouted 'Hafiz boleh', but the young player was visibly tired as he served for the game. He misjudged Chen's return lob and the shuttle landed inside. With service back, the Chinese player levelled the score.

    'That was the turning point,' recalled Hafiz. 'My concentration slipped for a second, and that cost me.'

    Chen went on to take the game - and the match.

    'It was tough, but I was confident. It is a good result, but this is only one match,' he said afterwards. 'There are others coming up, and I'm ready for all of them.'

    Hafiz's compatriots advanced to the next rounds, with World Championship runner-up Wong Choong Hann beating Japan's Sato Shoji 15-6, 15-13 in the first round, and older brother Roslin getting past Thai Boonsak Polsana 15-5, 15-9.

    Wong later beat Swede Rasmus Wengberg 15-12, 17-14.

    Malaysia's Ong Ewe Hock was due to meet world champion Xia Xuanze of China in the second round late last night.

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