PETALING JAYA: The country’s men’s singles shuttlers, led by Lee Zii Jia (pic), are in for tough times at the All-England from March 14-19 in Birmingham.
Former national and 2003 All-England winner Hafiz Hashim believes that independent player and world No. 4 Zii Jia, debutant Ng Tze Yong and veteran Liew Daren will struggle in this year’s competition.
“I think it will be tough for our Malaysian players to win the tournament this time,” said Hafiz.
“I believe that Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen will defend his title.’’
2021 winner Zii Jia, who is still trying to rediscover his best form, could face a daunting clash against Japan’s world No. 6 Kodai Naraoka in the quarter-finals.
But before that, Zii Jia has to overcome Thailand’s world No. 33 Sitthikom Thammasin in his opening match and most probably Naraoka’s compatriot and world No. 14 Kenta Nishimoto in the second round.
Despite the huge challenge ahead, the 24-year-old will be out to make amends after suffering early defeats in his first three individual tournaments of the year last month (Malaysian Open, Indian Open and Indonesian Masters).
The others in Zii Jia’s half of the draw (bottom half) who are ranked in the world’s top 10 are Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie (No. 2) and Thailand’s Indian Open champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn (No. 7).
Meanwhile, world No. 28 Tze Yong will need to be on his toes from the beginning as he has a tricky task against Indonesia’s world No. 26 Shesar Hiren in the first round.
If he manages to beat Shesar, Tze Yong will likely take on none other than Axelsen in the next round.
Axelsen, who has been placed in the top half of the draw with Tze Yong, will begin his title defence against Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu.
Veteran Liew Daren also has a tricky test in the opening round against Indonesia’s world No. 17 Chico Aura.