PETALING JAYA: National top men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia may have suffered yet another early exit but there’s plenty of positives for him to take from his China Open debut.
The 21-year-old nearly pulled off a second straight win over reigning Olympic champion Chen Long before losing narrowly 16-21,21-12,21-23 in an epic 79-minute duel at the Olympic Sports Centre Xincheng in Changzhou yesterday.
Zii Jia deserved plenty of credit for giving the world No. 5 and three-time winner a run for his money in front of his home fans.
Chen Long appeared to be on his way to victory after racing to a commanding 18-12 lead in the rubber game.
But Zii Jia staged a remarkable comeback to draw level at 19-19, saving match point twice at 19-20 and 20-21 before Chen Long, also a two-time world champion, stepped up his game to prevent himself from an embarrassing first-round exit.
It was certainly a good response from Zii Jia who had failed miserably in his title defence bid at the Taiwan Open a fortnight ago. He fell in the second round to lower-ranked Shesar Hiren Rhustavito of Indonesia.
Zii Jia admitted he was expecting a tough time from Chen Long who was seeking to avenge his second-round defeat at the Indonesian Open in July.
“I knew it’s going to be difficult from the start. Once you have beaten a top 10 player, they will be well prepared and out to beat you in the next meeting, ” said Zii Jia.
“When I caught up with him at 20-20, I did think I could beat him but he was the better player of the day.
“Although I lost this time, it was a close game. I’m not too far from him surely. I will continue to improve myself and try to beat him again.
“But for now, I want to put this defeat behind me, refresh myself and prepare well for the next tournament (Korean Open from Sept 24-29).”
The Badminton Association of Malaysia will have a lot to ponder as their other players – men’s doubles pair Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzudin Rumsani, Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and Vivian Hoo-Yap Cheng Wen (women’s doubles) and Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (mixed doubles) – were also sent packing.
World No. 31 Sze Fei-Izzuddin can still walk tall despite going down 21-15,13-21,16-21 to Japan’s world No. 4 Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda.
Mei Kuan-Meng Yean were no match for China’s Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan as they were beaten 12-21,15-21 in just 33 minutes.
Vivian-Cheng Wen and Kian Meng-Pei Jing were a big letdown in their ‘winnable’ matches against lower-ranked opponents.
Vivian-Cheng Wen lost 12-21,21-17,14-21 to Thailand’s Puttita Supajirakul-Sapsiree Taerattanachai while Kian Meng-Pei Jing fell to an 18-21,21-16,12-21 defeat to Indonesia’s Rinov Rivaldy-Pitha Haningtyas Mentari.
Thankfully, independent shuttlers Liew Daren and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong came to the rescue by clearing their respective singles and doubles opening hurdles.
Daren, who got into the main draw thanks to several late withdrawals, took his chances well by beating Sitthikorn Thammasin of Thailand 13-21,21-19,23-21 to set up a meeting with Kanta Tsuneyama.
Daren famously defeated the Japanese in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Nanjing last year despite hurting his ankle midway through the match.
“I’m glad to overcome a very tough first round. I was not feeling well since the Vietnam Open last week, but managed to shake it off for this tournament, ” said Daren.
“I’m looking forward to meeting Kanta again. It was the match against him that I really pushed myself and won despite carrying an injury.
“I have not been playing well lately and am low in confidence. Everytime I doubt myself, I always look back to that moment to draw some inspiration.”
V Shem-Wee Kiong picked up where they left off from their Taiwan Open triumph, needing just 25 minutes to dispatch Dutch pair Robin Tabeling-Jelle Maas 21-6,21-9.
Men’s singles: Kento Momota (Jpn) bt Lin Dan (Chn) 21-14,21-14; Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) bt Vincent Wong Wing Ki (Hkg) 21-10,21-15; Kanta Tsuneyama (Jpn) bt Viktor Axelsen (Den) 10-21,21-14,21-16; Liew Daren (Mas) bt Sitthikorn Thammasin (Tha) 13-21,21-19,21-15; Angus Ng Ka Long (Hkg) bt Zhao Junpeng (Chn) 9-21,21-18,21-19; Chen Long (Chn) bt Lee Zii Jia (Mas) 21-16,12-21,23-21; Wang Tzu Wei (Tpe) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-16,21-19; Shesar Hiren Rhustavito (Ina) bt Jonatan Christie (Ina) 23-21,18-21,21-10.
Men’s doubles: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Ina) bt Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (Jpn) 21-17,21-15; Mathias Boe-Mads Conrad-Petersen (Den) bt Han Chengkai-Zhou Haodong (Chn) 21-19,21-18; Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (Mas) bt Jelle Maas-Robin Tabeling (Ned) 21-6,21-9; Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda (Jpn) bt Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani (Mas) 15-21,21-13,21-16; Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto (Ina) bt Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit (Tha) 21-14,21-11; Lu Ching-yao-Yang Po-han (Tpe) bt Liao Min-chun-Su Ching-heng (Tpe) 21-17,21-17; Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty (Ind) bt Jason Anthony Ho-Shue-Nyl Yakura (Can) 21-7,21-18.
*Matches involving Malaysians onlyWomen’s doubles: Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan (Chn) bt Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (Mas) 21-12,21-15.
Mixed doubles: Rinov Rivaldy-Pitha Haningtyas Mentari (Ina) bt Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (Mas) 21-18,16-21,21-12.
FIRST ROUND RESULTS