INDONESIAN men’s singles star Jonatan Cristie has tipped Lee Zii Jia to be among the favourites to succeed him as the SEA Games men’s singles champion when the individual competition kicks off today.
The 22-year-old will not be defending his title as the Indonesian BA want him to concentrate on the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou next week, paving the way for the next highest-ranked shuttlers such as Zii Jia and Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen to win their first SEA Games gold.
Jonatan accomplished his mission to help Indonesia retain the team gold for the sixth edition running by beating Malaysia 3-1 at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex yesterday.
The Asian Games champion delivered the opening point with an emphatic 21-9,21-17 win over Zii Jia, and said the defeat in the team event could fire up Zii Jia in the pursuit of an individual honour.
“Zii Jia is undoubtedly a fine player. He’s definitely a worthy successor to Lee Chong Wei, ” said Jonatan.
“I wasn’t sure why he was struggling to give his best, especially in the first game. He gave away many easy points.
“In the second game, he began to trouble me a lot and I thought both of us played a very good match under extremely unfamiliar conditions.
“It’s not easy for us to play at this venue as the set-up is very different from what we usually get in World Tour tournaments. The lighting, the draught - whoever gets the hang of it first will have the advantage.
“But I do expect a big battle for the individual gold between Zii Jia and the rest of the talented singles players in the region, including Kantaphon, my compatriots Shesar (Hiren Rhustavito) and Firman Kholik, and even Loh Kean Yew (Singapore).”
The individual competition draw which was released yesterday saw Zii Jia getting a clear path to the final.
The second seed has been drawn in the bottom half and opens his campaign again Singapore’s Joel Koh.
A win will see him face either Naing Phone Pyae or Tep Chanmara of Cambodia, and his first test will most likely be in the last four where he could face Sitthikorn Thammasin of Thailand or Firman.
Soong Joo Ven, meanwhile, can count himself unlucky to be bunched together with Kantaphon, Shesar and Kean Yew in the upper half.
In the men’s doubles, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik are expected to face their real test against Wahyu Nayaka Arya Pangkaryanira-Ade Yusuf Santoso in the semi-finals while Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi also look set to make it a Malaysia-Indonesia semis with a possible clash against top seeds Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto.
The other Malaysian shuttlers for the individual events are Soniia Cheah and S. Kisona in the women’s singles; Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and Vivian Hoo-Yap Cheng Wen (women’s doubles); and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie and Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (mixed doubles).
Although Malaysia are targeting just one gold medal, the national shuttlers are certainly capable of delivering more considering the decent strength in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles department.
In Kuala Lumpur two years ago, Goh Jin Wei claimed the only gold by securing a 1-2 finish with Soniia in the women’s singles.
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