To do so, however, he will have to clear two big hurdles – second seed Sho Sasaki, whom he meets in the second round on Wednesday – and most likely top seed Chen Jin of China in the final.
Asked his thoughts after losing to Simon Santoso in the Axiata Cup semi-finals on Sunday, Daren, who has reached a career-high No. 28 in the world rankings, said he hopes to end his title drought in Sydney.
“I’ve reached my highest ranking and will now have to eye my first title,” said Daren, who is now the second highest Malaysia in the ranking behind world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, taking over from Hafiz Hashim, who remained at No. 32.
“My first real test will be against Sho in the second round. If I can get past him, it will give me a big confidence boost for the tournament.”
On Tuesday, Daren outclassed Australian qualifier Daniel Guda 21-5, 21-9 in the opening round, while defending champion Sasaki hammered Singapore’s Derek Wong 21-11, 21-15.
Chen Jin suffered a slight hiccup against Taipei qualifier Lin Yu Hsien, who put up a tremendous fight before going down 21-13, 16-21, 21-12. The Chinese superstar will now take on Australia’s Nathan David who defeated compatriot James Hutton 21-15, 21-15.
Meanwhile, Daren’s compatriot Zulfadli Zulkifli the reigning world and Asian junior champion, once again failed to get past the first round of an Open tournament.
Zulfadli, who won two of his three matches in the Axiata Cup, was knocked out by Indonesia’s Alamsyah Yunus, who won 21-17, 21-12.
The 18-year-old must now go back to the drawing board and plan a way to make an impact on the senior circuit.
In other matches, three of Indonesia’s Axiata Cup heroes Simon Santoso, Taufik Hidayat and Sony Dwi Kuncoro reached the second round, but it was the end of the road for Tommy Sugiarto.
For full results, click here.