PETALING JAYA: Lee Zii Jia (pic) has moved to a career high world No. 2 spot but Kento Momota of Japan continues to spiral down in the world rankings and his absence from the world circuit may make the situation worse.
Zii Jia, who reached the Denmark Open final before losing to Shi Yuqi of China on Sunday, moved one rung to second spot in the latest list released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday.
The move in the pecking order is a timely boost for the 24-year-old Zii Jia, who takes on Shesar Hiren of Indonesia in the French Open today when the second half of the men’s singles players get into action.
In the first half played yesterday, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark justified his No. 1 spot by beating Kenta Nishimoto of Japan 21-11, 22-20 to reach the second round with a possibility of meeting Yuqi.
Momota, who had held on to the No. 2 spot for the last few years, dropped to ninth.
He is likely to tumble out further with his decision to skip the Opens in Denmark last week and France this week after suffering a double blow at home – losing in the second round of the World Championships and the first round of the Japan Open.
Former great Datuk Rashid Sidek sees the transition in the game’s top rivalry from Axelsen-Momota to Axelsen-Zii Jia as a great boost for Malaysian badminton.
“Lee Chong Wei had held the No. 1 spot for a long time and was the No. 2 to Lin Dan of China for some time too. Now, we have another Malaysian at second spot for the first time in the singles,” said Rashid.
“This is a great move forward for Zii Jia. It will not be easy to dislodge Viktor but that should be his goal.
“The point difference between the two is huge but if Zii Jia can be more consistent, there is a possibility to narrow the gap and hopefully, take over the spot one day,” he said.
Zii Jia, with 92,528 points, is 30,078 behind Axelsen (122,606).
On Kento’s absence and poor form, Rashid was sympathetic towards the former world No. 1 and two-time world champion.
“It’s painful to see him play now. He has lost his confidence. There is no joy in his game.
“Unless he changes his style and mindset, it will be difficult for him to make a comeback. His game has now become too predictable,” said Rashid.
It’s learnt that Momota will take a break until the end of this year and is expected to make a comeback with a new game plan next year.
The other players in the top 10 are regulars – Denmark’s Anders Antonsen (No. 3), Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen (4), Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew (5), Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting (6) and Jonatan Christie (7), India’s Lakshya Sen (8) and Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn (10th).
Meanwhile, Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing also celebrated their move from 10th to ninth placing in the world with a first-round victory in the French Open yesterday.
They fought hard to beat China’s Guo Xinwa-Zhang Shuxian 8-21, 22-20, 24-22 and will meet the winners between Chan Peng Soon-Cheah Yee See and Japan’s Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo.
FRENCH OPEN RESULTS
Men’s singles: Kodai Naraoka (Jpn) bt Brian Yang (Can) 21-15, 21-18; Angus Ng Ka Long (Hkg) bt Zhao Junpeng (Chn) 24-22, 21-18.
Men’s doubles: Choi Sol-gyu-Kim Won-ho (Kor) bt Lee Yang-Lu Chen (Tpe) 21-19, 21-14; Lee Jhe-huei-Yang Po-hsuan (Tpe) bt Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan (Ina) 21-16, 23-21; Jonathan Christie (Ina) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-19, 21-14.
Women’s singles: Wang Zhi Yi (Chn) bt Julie Dawall Jakobsen (Den) 21-12, 21-12; Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) bt Clara Azurmendi (Spa) 21-14, 21-11; Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) bt Michelle Li (Can) 21-8, 21-14; Lalinrat Chaiwan (Tha) bt Kirsty Gilmour (Sco) 21-18, 21-14.
Women’s doubles: Supissara Paewsampran-Puttita Supajirakul (Tha) bt Rin Iwanaga-Kie Nakanishi (Jpn) 21-19, 21-10; Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawindra Prajongjai (Tha) bt Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand (Ind) 23-21, 22-20; Febriana Dwiputri-Amalia Cahaya (Ina) bt Stine Kuespert-Emma Moszczynski (Ger) 18-21, 21-9, 21-13; Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (Mas) bt Apriyani Rahayu-Siti Fadia (Ina) 22-20, 19-21, 21-7.
Mixed doubles: Mathias Christiansen-Alexandra Boje (Den) bt Adam Hall-Julie Macpherson (Sco) 21-18, 24-22; Kyohei Yamashita-Naru Shinoya (Jpn) bt Ishaan Bhatnagar-Tanisha Crasto (Ind) 21-13, 21-16; Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (Mas) bt Guo Xinwa-Zhang Shuxian (Chn) 8-21, 22-20, 24-22; Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo (Jpn) bt Chan Peng Soon-Cheah Yee See 21-18, 21-17.
(Top 5 only)
Men’s singles: 1. Viktor Axelsen (Den), 2. Lee Zii Jia (Mas), 3. Anders Antonsen (Den), 4. Chou Tien-chen (Tpe), 5. Loh Kean Yew (Sin). Selected: 28. Liew Daren, 33. Ng Tze Yong, 51. Cheam June Wei, 55. Soong Joo Ven, 73. Leong Jun Hao, 91. Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin.
Men’s doubles: 1. Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (Jpn), 2. Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya (Ina), 3. Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin (Tpe), 4 Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (Mas), 5. Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan (Ina). Selected: 9. Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi, 10. Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani, 20. Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun.
Women’s singles: 1. Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn), 2. Tai Tzu-ying (Tpe), 3. An Se-young (Kor), 4. Chen Yufei (Chn), 5. P.V. Sindhu (Ind). Selected: 41. S. Kisona, 44. Goh Jin Wei, 84. Soniia Cheah, 99. Eoon Qi Xuan.
Women’s doubles: 1. Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan (Chn), 2. Kim So-yeong-Kong Hee-yong (Kor), 3. Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida (Jpn), 4. Lee So-hee-Shin Cheung-chan (Kor), 5. Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu (Ina). Selected: 11. Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah, 26. Vivian Hoo-Lim Chiew Sien.
Mixed doubles: 1. Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Tha), 2. Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (Jpn), 3. Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong (Chn), 4. Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping (Chn), 5. Praveen Jordan-Melati Oktavianti (Ina). Selected: 9. Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, 12. Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, 24. Chen Tang Jie-Peck Yen Wei, 39. Hoo Pang Ron-Toh Ee Wei.