Solid as a rock


Total focus: Chen Long of China in action during the match against Raul Must of Estonia. — Reuters

PETALING JAYA: Lee Zii Jia and several other top players were fast and furious but all eyes were on defending champion Chen Long of China in the men’s singles opening group match competition.

The 23-year-old Zii Jia hardly showed any signs of nerves in his first Olympic Games as he took just 25 minutes to brush aside Artem Pochtarov of Ukraine 21-5, 21-11 in the first Group M match at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.

He will face Brice Leverdez of France next and the winner will progress to the last 16 knockout stage.

The others – Japan’s Kento Momota, China’s Shi Yuqi, Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting, and Denmark’s Anders Antonsen were also clinical in their straight game opening match victories.

The 32-year-old Chen Long, who has not played in any tournaments after his quarter-final defeat to Zii Jia at last year’s All-England, took his time to toy around Raul Must of Estonia before pulling off a 21-10, 21-9 win in 42 minutes in Group N.

He plays Spain’s Pablo Abian tomorrow.

If Chen Long and Zii Jia win their last group matches, they will take on each other in the first round of the knockout stage to determine who gets into the quarter-finals.

National coaching director Wong Choong Hann was happy with Zii Jia’s form but was wary of Chen Long.

“Zii Jia had a good match to get his momentum going for the coming matches. He just needs to stay focused in every match,” said Choong Hann.

“Chen Long however did not show much depth in his game. He allowed his opponents to push him deep into his game.

“He still looks solid and ready. The only thing is that we don’t know how much he can go when the going gets tough.

“All the top players had their nerves but played well. However, their lower-ranked opponents did not push them enough. It was not good enough to see for real how good they are.”

Meanwhile, Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean’s hopes to enter the knockout stage is over after they went down 21-17, 15-21, 8-21 to Japan’s Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota yesterday. It was their second defeat in Group A after having lost to Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu on Saturday.

They will play Chloe Birch-Lauren Smith to decide who finish third in the group.

Only the top two pairs advance to the quarter-finals.

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