PETALING JAYA: For veteran shuttler Liew Daren, it is a mixed bag of feelings heading into the New Year.
The 33-year-old was thanking his lucky stars after earning a spot in the main draw of the BWF Asian Tour in Thailand next month.
Initially, the World No 41’s hopes of participating in his first tournament since the Spain Masters in February was in the balance as he was only the third reserve for the two Thai meets on Jan 12-17 and Jan 19-24,
But China’s withdrawal from the competition saw World No 9 Shi Yuqi and World No 21 Lu Guangzu drop out.
On top of that, Hong Kong’s World No 40 Wong Wing Ki, who was the second reserve, also stood back on Monday, thus paving the way for Daren to enter the field.
However, the 2018 world championships bronze medallist will still have a tough fight on his hands even as he tries to make the most of his good fortune.
This is because Daren has been drawn to meet Denmark’s World No 3 Anders Antonsen in the first round of the first leg competition.
And he also faces a challenging match-up against India’s World No 13 B. Sai Praneeth in the first round of the second leg.
Nevertheless, the 2012 French Open winner is just grateful to have a chance to compete again in order to boost his hopes of Olympic qualifying.
“It’s definitely a relief to get into the main draw because it was really down to luck in the end,” admitted Daren.
“Earlier, I really didn’t think I would make it through because right until Christmas there was only one higher ranked withdrawal.
“So I thought there wasn’t much hope for me left.
“But now that I’m in, I’m definitely going to be well prepared to make the best of this opportunity.
“There are still two more weeks before the competition starts, so there is time to get myself in shape.
“And of course it is going to be tough since this is a Super 1000 tournament and there won’t be any easy opponents at all.
“But the pressure will not be on me and I’m just going to go out there and give it my best,” added Daren.
Besides Daren, the only other Malaysian men’s singles to make it into the main draw is national No 1 Lee Zii Jia.
The World No 10, however, also faces tricky challenges in the back-to-back meets.
Seeded eighth, Zii Jia is up against World No 28 H.S. Prannoy of India in the first round of the first leg and is drawn against another Indian – World No 31 Sameer Verma in the first round of the second leg.