Zii Jia has tricky first round to negotiate in Malaysian Masters


Formidable foe: Lee Zii Jia will have to be on his toes right from the start against China’s Zhao Junpeng. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is set to face a tricky first-round match against China’s Zhao Junpeng in the Malaysian Masters from May 21-26 at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil.

World No. 10 Zii Jia, who is seeded fifth in the tournament, has been placed in the bottom half of the draw and will have to be on his toes right from the start against the 2022 World Championships bronze medallist.

Junpeng stunned the 26-year-old in the third round of the world meet en route to winning bronze in Tokyo and will be no pushover despite dropping down to No. 45 in the latest world rankings after failing to consistently produce his best form since then.

Zii Jia, though, does hold a slight advantage based on the head-to-head records after coming out on top over the 28-year-old twice in their past three meetings in international competitions.

A win this time will see the independent player face either India’s Kiran George or Japan’s Takuma Obayashi in the second round.

If he progresses to the last eight, Zii Jia could go up against Denmark’s world No. 4 and second seed Anders Antonsen.

Another homester, world No. 37 Leong Jun Hao will take on China’s world No. 33 Lei Lanxi in the first round while independent duo Cheam June Wei and Soong Joo Ven will start from the qualifying rounds.

Meanwhile, there was joy for the country’s top doubles pairs Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (men’s doubles), Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (women’s doubles) and Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei (mixed doubles) after all were given favourable draws in the absence of several big guns, who are skipping the tournament to focus on their preparations for the Paris Olympics in July.

World No. 4 Aaron-Wooi Yik and world No. 9 Tang Jie-Ee Wei will start as the top seeds while Pearly-Thinaah (No. 14) are seeded second only behind Japan’s Rin Iwanaga-Kie Nakanishi (No. 12).

Aaron-Wooi Yik will play a qualifier in the first round and a win will likely see them meet China’s Chen Boyang-Liu Yi in the second round.

Tang Jie-Ee Wei and Pearly-Thinaah will face Thailand’s Pakkapon Teeraratsakul-Phataimas Muenwong and Pichamon Patcharaphisutsin-Nannapas Sukklad respectively in the first round.

For the record, mixed doubles pair Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing were the last home representatives to win the title when they were crowned champions in 2017.

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