PETALING JAYA: Playing at home will be an added motivation for Lee Zii Jia to stop his inconsistent showing on the international stage.
Zii Jia will get a chance to settle down at a familiar ground when he begins his campaign with a first round match-up against Lu Guangzu of China in the Malaysian Masters from May 23-28 at the Axiata Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The 24-year-old has been handed a tricky draw which was released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday.
If he beats Guangzu for the second time in their fourth meeting, he may get to play with Indonesian Chico Aura in the second round and probably Kodai Naraoka of Japan in the last eight.
The other last eight battle in the lower half will be among second seed and reigning Asian champion Anthony Ginting of Indonesia, Angus Ng Ka Long (Hkg), Loh Kean Yew (Sin), Anders Antonsen (Den) and Kento Momota (Jpn).
In the upper half, top seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark is the trump card.
The Olympic champion has the company of Zhao Junpeng, Li Shifeng of China; Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand; Japan’s Kanta Tsuyenama, Kenta Nishimoto; Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie and Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong.
Tze Yong will face Nishimoto in the opening match.
Zii Jia remembers his painful first round defeat in the Malaysian Open in January but this time, he will hope for the home support to turn his fortune around.
The Malaysian has dropped four rungs to the eighth spot in the world, and can’t afford to lose in early matches anymore.
After a few early round defeats at the start of the season, Zii Jia did well to reach the semi-finals of the All-England and Swiss Open in March, before he was sent packing in the early round of the Asian Championships in Dubai last week.
But before seeking individual glory, Zii Jia will spearhead the team in the Sudirman Cup from May 14-21 in Suzhou, China.
In the men’s doubles, it will be the same script with Asian championships runners-up Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi and world champions Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik going all out to win a title.
Yew Sin-Ee Yi are looking at winning their first Open title after winning the Thailand Masters in 2020 while Aaron-Wooi Yik are still searching for their first Open crown.
World No. 8 Yew Sin-Ee Yi face Ren Xiangyu-Tan Qiang of China in the opening match while second seeds Aaron-Wooi Yik have been drawn to face Pramudya Kusumawardana-Yeremia Rambitan of Indonesia.