Veteran shuttler Liew Daren is more than happy to assume an underdog tag, which he believes will work in his favour as the national team prepares for the upcoming Thomas Cup campaign (May 8-15) in Bangkok.
Liew joined the tournament's centralised training camp at the Academy Badminton Malaysia since last week along with Lee Zii Jia, whom he is part of the latter's coaching set-up.
“It’s good to be back here and training together with the rest. It’s the first time I am back since we gathered for a short period in 2020 [before the 2020 Thomas Cup was postponed].
“For the Thomas Cup, playing as an underdog suits me better. I would say I am calmer due to my experience, and can handle pressure situations better.
“If I were to play in the second singles, it would be tough as I would be playing higher ranked players. But I am confident of contributing a point, and that could even mean (Ng) Tze Yong would not have to play,” he told Stadium Astro.
Going by ranking, the 35-year-old could be fielded as the second singles player.
That means he could potentially face Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan and 154th-ranked Englishman Alex Lane in the group stage.
Liew played in two tournaments this year, reaching the second round of the All-England where he managed to nick a game off world number Chou Tien-chen.
He later lost to a well-playing K. Srikanth in the Korea Open opener.
Unlike previous years, he had Indra Wijaya, Lee’s main coach, on the sidelines during matches.
“Indra has been really helpful with his advice. It’s much better for me to have someone to talk to during matches, as I was playing alone in overseas tournaments for five years,” he said, adding that sparring with Lee also improved his game.
“Personally it’s good for me to spar with him as he is a top 10 player. It pushes me more and improves my fitness. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to be at an optimum level.”
Before the Thomas Cup begins, Liew along with the rest of the contingent would compete at next week’s Badminton Asia Championships (BAC).
The world number 35 is slated to face South Korea’s Heo Kwang-hee, whom he has an inferior head-to-head record against (1-3), but is hoping his opponent’s recent substandard performances could give him an edge.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), meanwhile, announced Aaron Chia as their Thomas Cup captain, with youngster Chia Weijie also making the squad.
The contingent would leave for the Philippines for the BAC on Saturday, and would head to Bangkok right after the Asian meet ends.