PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Ng Tze Yong (pic) knows when to strike against a physically exhausted foe.
Yesterday, Tze Yong took advantage of a jaded H.S. Prannoy of India to enter the second round of the China Open at the Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium in Changzhou, China, to set up a meeting with world No. 45 Shezar Hiren of Indonesia.
Seasoned campaigner Prannoy had pulled off an incredible show at the recent World Championships when he downed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the quarter-finals en route to winning his first career bronze medal in the world meet after several failed attempts.
He went down fighting in another energy-sapping match against eventual champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in the semis.
“I took the opportunity because I think Prannoy has not fully recovered from the World Championships,” said Tze Yong in his post match interview with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) after his 21-12, 13-21, 21-18 win.
“I know Prannoy is a strong player with powerful smashes, so I tried my best to avoid lifting the shuttle.”
The world No. 22 had never played against the in-form Indian in international competitions before but showed resilience in the third game when he displayed great fighting spirit to come back from 8-13 down to win the match.
Tze Yong’s superb net play, patient attacks and solid defence earned him a route back into the match and when the game was tied at 18-18, the national No. 1 stayed ice cool to claim the last three points for the valuable win.
Prannoy is the latest scalp claimed by Tze Yong this year after similarly outstanding wins over Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen, Singapore’s 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew and Indonesia’s world No. 9 Jonatan Christie.
Tze Yong does not intend to take Shesar lightly as the latter has more experience than him.
Shesar was promoted from the reserves list after Vitidsarn withdrew from the tournament and ousted Prannoy’s compatriot Priyanshu Rajawat 21-13, 26-24 in another opening round match to survive the opener
Based on the head-to-head record, Tze Yong has a slight advantage over Shesar, having beaten him in the first round of the All-England Open in March.
Meanwhile, independent player Lee Zii Jia will open his campaign today against Japan’s World Championships silver medallist Kodai Naraoka.