Badminton: Taufik out to rule ABC By RIZAL ABDULLAH JOHOR BARU: Indonesian star Taufik Hidayat is ready to throw in a strong challenge in the US$125,000 Yonex-Sunrise Asian Badminton Championships (ABC), which began at the Indoor Stadium here with the qualifying round yesterday. The reigning Olympic and world champion surprised the badminton world last month when he pulled out of the All-England and Swiss Open championships. He skipped the two tournaments after the All-Indonesian Badminton (PBSI) did not take action against seven players for having competed in a non-sanctioned tournament in Papua New Guinea after having issued a warning that they would be punished if they did so. “I am here to get a good result,” said Taufik after a training session at the Johor Badminton Association Hall in Larkin yesterday. “The ABC is part of my preparations for the Singapore Open (May 1-6) but my target is to win the Indonesian Open (May 7-13). I have not played in a tournament since I lost to Lin Dan in the first round in the Malaysian Open.” Taufik is now ranked 20th in the world and is seeded fifth-eighth in the ABC. Defending champion Lee Chong Wei is the top seed ahead of China's Chen Hong, who is making a quick return to competitive badminton after announcing his retirement from the game recently. Barring any upsets, Chong Wei is tipped to play against Taufik in the quarter-finals. Taufik has won his last two matches against the Malaysian number one – the latest was in the semi-finals of the Doha Asian Games last December. “Because of my poor ranking, we will cross paths in the quarter-finals. It is not going to be easy playing against Chong Wei, who has the advantage of home crowd support,” said Taufik, who took the gold medal in the Doha Asiad. “Chong Wei is a good player but sometimes he lacks the mental strength. But I cannot dwell on my past results. “When I did not go to the All-England and Swiss Open, I just enjoyed my training and spent time with my wife. I am not thinking of the World Championships in August because my wife is also expecting our first child at that time.” However, Taufik, who opens his campaign against Saeki Koichi of Japan, was also quick to point out that he has to be wary of his other opponents. He also has in his quarter Malaysian Sairul Amar Ayob, who won the Dutch Open last year. The ABC is the last tournament for the players to pick up ranking points for the qualification for the World Championships, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur in August. The Olympic qualifying period begins on May 1 and the Asian badminton powerhouses have chosen to keep their top players at home to prepare for the Open tournaments in Singapore and Indonesian. Meanwhile, the only Malaysian involved in the qualifying round yesterday, Vivian Hoo Kah Mun, failed to make the main draw of the women's singles competition. She was beaten 9-21, 14-21 by Japan's Fujii Mizuki.