Zii Jia awaits stern first-round test at All-England as Naraoka looms


One tough hurdle: Japan’s Kodai Naraoka could prove to be a stumbling block to Lee Zii Jia’s All-England title aspirations.

PETALING JAYA: Men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is set to face a steep hurdle in the first round of the All-England from March 12-17 in Birmingham against Japan’s world No. 6 Kodai Naraoka.

The Malaysian world No. 10 will need to be on his toes from the start in the prestigious tournament against last year’s World Championships silver medallist.

The head-to-head records are not in favour of the independent player, who has only beaten the Japanese once in their past four meetings in international competitions.

Zii Jia went down fighting 21-13, 9-21, 16-21 to Naraoka in their last encounter in the quarter-finals of the Indian Open in New Delhi last month.

The 25-year-old, however, can take heart from his sole win over the latter which was in last year’s All-England.

Another victory will see Zii Jia face either Singapore’s 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew or Hong Kong’s world No. 23 Angus Ng Ka Long in the second round.

Zii Jia is hoping to continue his encouraging start to the year.

He had a tough start last year where he suffered early round exits in all his tournaments before making it to the semi-finals of the All-England.

Although Zii Jia lost in the opening round of the Malaysian Open last month, it has still been a better start for him this year after he bounced back to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in the Indian Open and Indonesian Masters.

He also helped the men’s team to a runners-up finish in the Asia Team Championships recently.

Zii Jia won all his matches in the team meet at the Setia City Convention Centre, notably beating Taiwan’s world No. 21 Lin Chun-yi and Japan’s world No. 11 Kenta Nishimoto.

“It has been a positive progress for me this year compared to the start I made in 2023,” said Zii Jia.

“I have important tournaments coming up and I hope to keep going.”

Zii Jia will play in the French Open from March 5-10 in Paris first before turning his attention to the All-England.

He will open his campaign in the French tourney against Denmark’s Magnus Johannesen.

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Badminton , Lee Zii Jia , All-England , Birmingham

   

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