Ewe Hock fires up Zii Jia to join M’sian Open winners’ list


Make us proud: (right) Lee Zii Jia has what it takes to bring back the cheers to local fans. (left)Former Malaysian Open champ Ong Ewe Hock. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Former champion Ong Ewe Hock wants nothing but to see another local being crowned as the men’s singles winner at the Malaysian Open next month.

Ewe Hock, who won the home title twice in 1996 and 2001, is placing his bet on world No. 8 Lee Zii Jia to replicate his All-England-winning form and reclaim the men’s singles title last won by Lee Chong Wei in 2018.

The US$600,000 (RM2.46mil) showpiece is from May 25-30 at the Axiata Arena.

Chong Wei has been a dominant force in his own backyard by winning a whopping 12 titles, a record that will surely be difficult to surpass.

In Chong Wei’s absence, Zii Jia failed to even clear the first round in the 2019 edition which was won by now-retired star Lin Dan of China.

Ewe Hock has no doubt that Zii Jia, now with a major title under his belt, has what it takes to bring back the cheers to the local fans.

“Yes, it’s going to be a massive challenge... but as long as he can handle the pressure well, I don’t see why he can’t (win the Malaysian Open), ” said the 49-year-old.

“Things have changed for Zii Jia since he won the All-England.

“Like it or not, he will now have to face an increasing expectation from the fans. Furthermore, he is also becoming the main target of his rivals.

“Everyone will be out to get him. Previously he was pressured to achieve a breakthrough, now he’s under pressure to stay at the top.

“It’s a different thing altogether... it will be tougher.

“As one of the avid Malaysian badminton lovers, of course I would like to see our own player winning it.

“I believe Zii Jia can pull off something special.”

Ewe Hock also stressed the value of winning a home Open and Zii Jia should make it as one of the ultimate targets.

“Winning a Malaysian Open brings a different kind of satisfaction, it’s much more fulfilling than when you win another Open tournament abroad, ” said Ewe Hock.

“Nothing beats the feeling of celebrating a success in front of home fans.“So it’s an important title to have for any national players in their career.”

In fact, only a handful of local men’s singles players have managed to win the Malaysian Open since the Open era started in 1980.

Besides Chong Wei (2004-2006,2008-2014,2016 and 2018) and Ewe Hock, three other winners were Misbun Sidek (1985), Rashid Sidek (1990,1991 and 1992) and James Chua (2002).

It’s also worth noting that some of the current world top players have not tasted success in their own national Opens yet.

They include world No. 2 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and world No. 5 Anthony Ginting of Indonesia.

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