Zii Jia and mixed pair steal show on opening day`

MALAYSIAN youngsters rocked the courts as national No. 1 men’s singles player Lee Zii Jia and “part-time” mixed doubles pair Man Wei Chong and Pearly Tan Koong Le stole the show with the biggest shocks of the opening day yesterday.The 21-year-old Zii Jia finally broke the duck against world No. 4 Anders Antonsen of Denmark by triumphing 14-21,21-15 21-8. It was his first win over the Dane in three meetings.

“It’s my first match of the year, I’m so happy to start off with a win, ” said world No. 14 Zii Jia. “First matches are always tricky but having won the SEA Games gold last month, I did have a lot expectation on myself too.

“This win is extremely important to get me going for the tournament. With the pressure (of clearing the first hurdle) now off, I am looking forward to a great outing this week.”

Zii Jia lost both his previous encounters against Antonsen rather tamely – in straight games – at the Indonesian Masters and Indonesian Open last year. At one point yesterday, when he lost the first game 14-21, it looked like the pattern was about to be repeated.

But having the backing of the home fans certainly made a difference.

“I want to thank the home fans for cheering me all the way until the last point. They still had faith in me even after I lost the first game, ” said Zii Jia.

“I knew it was going to be tough from the start because I had lost to him twice last year.

“I was playing it too safe and was playing to his rhythm. In the second game, coach (Hendrawan) told me I was too tense and told me to be more relaxed.

“I tried to enjoy the game more after that, and it worked.”

Zii Jia will play India’s Sameer Verma of India for a place in the quarter-finals today.

Earlier, Wei Chong-Pearly delighted the home crowd by stunning world No. 5 Praveen Jordan-Melati Daeva Oktavianti of Indonesia.

The world No. 89 surprisingly outplayed the recently-crowned SEA Games champions 21-18,21-13 in just 27 minutes.

What made the victory even impressive was that Wei Chong and Pearly do not train together in the mixed doubles squad.

They both train with their respective men and women’s doubles department and only play when assigned.

“I am still in shock to be honest, ” said 19-year-old Pearly. “We were nervous before playing them, but as soon as we started, the feeling disappeared. I think our communication played a key role in our win.”

“It also helped us that they made simple mistakes at the net, ” she said.

Added the 20-year-old Wei Chong: “This is our first Super 500 event and to get a result like this is amazing.

“We have not trained together, to be honest. We only play together during tournaments.”

Wei Chong-Pearly have potential in the mixed doubles and can probably convince the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to have them training regularly in the mixed doubles.

They had already showed signs of their promising when they finished runners-up at the Malaysian International Challenge and reached the semi-finals of the Malaysian International Series last year.

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