PETALING JAYA: The odds are stacked against the nation’s top singles shutter Lee Zii Jia to emulate or better his semi-final outing at the All-England from March 16-21.
The world No. 11 could cross path with world No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan, whom he has never beaten in six previous encounters.
The All-England will mark two-time world champion Momota’s comeback to the international stage after 15 months.
Momota has yet to feature in any international tournaments since he was involved in a road accident following his Malaysian Masters triumph in Kuala Lumpur in January last year.
Despite being out for a long period, Momota showed he has not lost his winning touch when he powered his way to a fourth national title in December.
Zii Jia knows very well that a good showing in a major meet like the All-England would resurrect his career after being subjected to heavy criticism over his insipid displays in Thailand last month.
Fortunately, Zii Jia will have the Swiss Open to build on his game two weeks prior to his trip to Arena Birmingham.
In his debut last year, he did well to beat the likes of Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie and China’s reigning Olympic champion Chen Long to reach the last four.
He battled gallantly for 73 minutes before losing 21-17,13-21 19-21 to eventual champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
Zii Jia is expected to clear his opening round against Canada’s Brian Yang with ease to set up a last 16 clash against Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.
World No. 33 Liew Daren is the other Malaysian in the fray.
The 33-year-old faces India’s H.S. Prannoy and will be looking to make it four wins on the trot against his opponent. If he advances, then he would be the first to face Momota, who should beat another Indian P. Kashyap in the opener.
Axelsen, who is the second seed, opens his title defence against Japan’s Koki Watanabe.
In men’s doubles, fans will be pinning their hopes on independent pairs Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong and Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi in the absence of world No. 9 Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik.
The 2019 runners-up opted out due to Covid-19 fears.
Wee Kiong-V Shem, last month’s Thailand Open I runners-up, will take on German duo Mark Lamsfuss-Marvin Seidel while Yew Sin-Ee Yi should fancy their chances against India’s M.R. Arjun-Dhruv Kapila.
Debutants Ng Eng Cheong-Low Hang Yee will be out to make a strong impression with a win over Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen-Niclas Nohr.
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