TWO-TIME winner Ong Ewe Hock has backed World No 5 Lee Zii Jia to win the Super 750 Malaysia Open from June 28-July 3.
Ewe Hock, 50, hopes to see Zii Jia translates his current rich vein of form into victory when the Malaysia Open makes its comeback for the first time since 2019 at the Axiata Arena.
Apart from Ewe Hock, only five other Malaysians have tasted success in the men’s singles in the country’s showpiece since the Open era started in 1980.
Lee Chong Wei led the way with a record-breaking 12 titles (2004-2006, 2008-2014, 2016, 2018), Rashid Sidek (1990, 1991, 1992), Ewe Hock (1996, 2001), Misbun Sidek (1985) and James Chua (2002).
Ewe Hock is confident that it will just be a matter of time before Zii Jia’s name is added to the list, and he expects it to happen next month.
“After being crowned winner at the Asia Championships and Thailand Open recently, he’s undoubtedly in the form of his life,” said Ewe Hock.
“He’s the man of the moment, I don’t see why he can’t win the Malaysia Open.
“I believe he will make the Malaysia Open one of his ultimate targets and he will go all out to win it.”
Ewe Hock, who is best remembered for coming back from a 15-1 mauling in the opening game to beat Zii Jia’s Indonesian coach Indra Wijaya in the 1996 final, said winning the home Open has given him a special fulfillment.
“Winning the Malaysia Open brings a different kind of satisfaction, it’s much more fulfilling than when you win other Open tournament abroad,” said Ewe Hock.
Zii Jia, who’s making his second Malaysia Open appearance next month, will be out to make amends after failing miserably in his debut in 2019, losing 21-17, 19-21, 21-15 to Thailand’s Suppanyu Avihingsanon in the first round.
Zii Jia can expect a tough time as the Malaysia Open will feature 18 of the world’s top 20 players including Viktor Axelsen, Kento Momota.
Anders Antonsen and Chou Tien Chen.