Back-up shuttler Tze Yong in main draw of Spain Masters

Ng Tze Yong in action during the second men's singles match against Leong Jun Hao in the President's Cup

PETALING JAYA: Back-up shuttler Ng Tze Yong is set for his maiden World Tour start after securing a place in the main draw of the Spain Masters in Huelva from May 18-23 – thanks to a spate of late withdrawals.

With as many as seven players removing their entries from the men’s singles event including Malaysia’s Soong Joo Ven before the draw was conducted on Tuesday, the 20-year-old Tze Yong catapulted from fifth in the waiting list into the top-32 draw.

He will now join teammate Cheam June Wei as the two representatives in the men’s singles competition.

It will be an opportunity Tze Yong would want capitalise on as he has been limited to playing in lower tier tournaments previously due to this low ranking.

Tze Yong will be aiming to build on the sixth-tier Polish Open victory last month, which helped him climb 30 rungs to No. 106 in the world ranking.

And he has a good chance of edging closer to the top 80, enhancing his chances to qualify for World Tour-level events in the future, if he can make it to at least the quarter-finals in Huelva.

Tze Yong will open his campaign against Estonian world No. 87 Raul Must and if he advances, then 2017 European junior champion Toma Junior Popov of France is likely to be his second round opponent.

World No. 42 Popov will be a tough nut to crack as he had won the fifth-tier Orleans Masters in France last month.

Tze Yong’s notable rivals in the bottom half include Spaniard Pablo Abian, Israeli Misha Zilberman and India’s Ajay Jayaam.

World No. 78 June Wei, meanwhile, has a clear path up to the last eight where he could face world No. 19 and top seed Shesar Hiren Rhustavito.

The 24-year-old is expected to overcome his opening round with ease against India’s Chirag Sen, an opponent he has not lost to in their two encounters so far.

June Wei should also be too good for either of his potential last-16 rivals – Lino Munoz of Mexico or Felix Burestedt of Sweden.

Shesar will surely head to Huelva as the man to beat after two worthy rivals – India’s Lakhsya Sen (No. 23) and Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew (No. 40) – had opted to skip the Spain Masters to participate in the Malaysian Open from May 25-30.

Despite the two tourneys being one week apart, it’s not possible for players to take part in both due to Covid-19 protocols that required participants to arrive and join the tournament bubble by May 18.

As for Joo Ven, he made a U-turn on his decision to participate in Spain after contemplating the costs incurred.

“I decided not to go after all, following a discussion with my coach and sponsors. We think it’s way too costly following the government’s latest decision to increase the quarantine period from 10 to 14 days for those returning from certain countries with dangerous Covid-19 variants, ” said Joo Ven.

“Not sure if Spain is on the list, but I did read that these new, highly-contagious variants had accounted for many new infections there.

“It’s a shame... I was looking forward to it and I’ve been training hard for the tournament and now the trip has been cancelled.”

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