Zii Jia faces Naraoka test in All England opener

KUALA LUMPUR: Lee Zii Jia will need to refine his attack to overcome the ultra-defensive Kodai Naraoka if he hopes to extend his impressive streak at the All-England.

World No. 10 Zii Jia faces a daunting challenge in the opening round of the Super 1000 tournament, drawing the Japanese star as his opponent.

This draw may unsettle Zii Jia, given his previous struggles against world No. 6 Naraoka.

In their four encounters, Zii Jia has only emerged victorious once, with his most recent loss at the India Open last month.

Nevertheless, Zii Jia can take solace in his success at the Arena Birmingham, which has proven to be his favoured battleground.

Notably, he has reached the semi-finals in all of his last four appearances, culminating in a triumphant victory in the 2021 edition.

If Zii Jia manages to outperform Naraoka, he will face Hong Kong's Angus Ng or Singapore's Loh Kean Yew in the next round.

In the lower half of the draw, alongside Zii Jia, are other notable contenders such as the in-form Anders Antonsen of Denmark, who clinched consecutive victories at the Malaysia Open and Indonesia Masters, and Shi Yu Qi of China.

It remains uncertain whether the currently injured Ng Tze Yong will participate in the All England. However, if he does compete, his initial challenge will be against India's Lakhsya Sen.

In the previous edition, Tze Yong garnered attention by defeating world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen.

Despite his impressive performance, his journey came to an end against eventual champion Li Shi Feng of China.

In the men's doubles, 2019 finallists Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik have a relatively clear path to the quarter-finals, where they are anticipated to face world No. 1 duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty of India.

Aaron-Wooi Yik will kick off their campaign against compatriots Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani.

On the other hand, the under-fire women's pair of Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah could potentially face elimination as early as the round of 16 unless they can upset the form book.

They have been drawn against top seeds Chen Qing Chen-Jia Yi Fan of China, against whom they have suffered defeat in all five of their previous encounters, in the second round.

However, they should have a more manageable opening match against compatriots Vivian Hoo-Lim Chiew Sien.

Similarly, the top mixed pair of Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei will need to deliver exceptional performances to progress deep into the tournament.

Their first-round match pits them against their Thai rivals Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai, whom they have already suffered two defeats this year, notably in the final of the Thailand Masters.

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