Zii Jia and Angus face off in intriguing Asian Games clash

HANGZHOU: Winning a medal in the individual events at the Hangzhou Asian Games will be a formidable challenge for the Malaysian shuttlers, demanding not only skill but also unwavering grit, mental fortitude, and self-belief.

Once again, the luck of the draw does not really favour the Malaysian camp, especially the men's singles.

Lee Zii Jia, a former All England champion, will face Hong Kong's Angus Ng in the first round.

Notably, Zii Jia's current coach, Wong Tat Meng, previously coached the Hong Kong men's singles department before joining Team LZJ.

And in a quick turn on events, former BA of Malaysia (BAM) singles coaching director Wong Choong Hann left the national fold to join Hong Kong and oversee their men's singles players.

This sets the stage for an intriguing battle of former coaches.

Zii Jia will need to step up and deliver an exceptional performance, given the issues happening around him.

Although Angus sits two places below Zii Jia in the world rankings at No. 18, he holds a 4-1 head-to-head advantage over the Malaysian.

In fact, in their first encounter under the guidance of Tat Meng at the Korea Open in July, Angus came out tops in three games.

Another Malaysian men's singles player, Ng Tze Yong, has received a first-round bye.

However, his second-round opponent is former world champion from Singapore, Loh Kean Yew.

Tze Yong, 23, holds a slight edge in their head-to-head record, having defeated the Penang-born Kean Yew in their last meeting at the Japan Open in July.

However, looking at the performances of the Malaysian men's singles players in the team event last week, nothing is guaranteed.

With Zii Jia and Tze Yong losing their respective matches, Malaysia failed to clear the first round when they lost 3-1 to South Korea.

In contrast, Malaysia's two medal prospects, former world champions Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, as well as women's doubles pair Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah, have received more favourable draws.

Aaron-Wooi Yik are expected to advance to the quarter-finals with ease, though they may face reigning world champions Kang Min Hyuk-Seo Seung of South Korea or China's Liu Yu Chen-Ou Xuan Yi.

It's worth noting that the pair had downed the Koreans just few days ago to deliver Malaysia their only point in the team event.

Pearly-Thinaah will play Singapore's Jin Yu Jia-Crystal Wong in the first round. Their potential second-round opponents are Thailand's Jonkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai.

The real test for Pearly-Thinaah is anticipated in the quarter-finals, where they are likely to clash with South Korea's Baek Ha Na-Lee So Hee.

The individual events are scheduled to start at the Binjiang Gymnasium on Monday, setting the stage for thrilling contests and the pursuit of coveted medals.

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