Zii Jia stuns world champ Kunlavut to enter q-finals

HANGZHOU – National top men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia (picture) produced a magnificent fightback to stun reigning world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn and check into the Hangzhou Asian Games quarter-finals at the Binjiang Gymnasium here today.

World number 16 Zii Jia, backed by a vociferous crowd, clinched a 10-21, 21-19, 21-6 win over world number four Kunlavut to make amends for missing out on the last eight in the 2018 edition in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia.

The 25-year-old Zii Jia got off to a shaky start, regained his composure to win the second game and then produced a dominant performance in the decider to send Kunlavut, who became Thailand’s first-ever men’s singles world champion in August, packing.

This is Zii Jia’s fourth win over Kunlavut in seven meetings, with the Thai shuttler having won their last two encounters in the 2021 World Tour Finals and 2022 German Open.

In tomorrow’s quarter-finals, former All England champion Zii Jia will take on HS Prannoy after the India shuttler downed Dmitriy Panarin of Kazakhstan 21-12, 21-13  today.

“Although I was behind by about seven points in the second game, I just tried everything I could. I knew that if I lost, it was the end for me. But, if the strategy worked, that’s it… I would be able to overturn the situation.

“Despite having lost many times this year, I am still trying to turn things around… sometimes, it’s just not your day. Had to accept them as a lesson… through this experience, I will be a more mature and experienced player,” he told reporters.

On his match against Prannoy, Zii Jia said he would need to be more prepared as the world number seven “is a strong and consistent player”.

Zii Jia advanced to the round of 16 after eliminating Mourinho Zefi Costa Gusmao De Jesus of Timor Leste yesterday, while Kunlavut edged Vietnam’s Nguyen Hai Dang.

Meanwhile, Kunlavut said he didn’t get to prepare well for the Asiad as he was hospitalised for three days due to influenza before leaving for Hangzhou.

Earlier, the national mixed doubles pair of Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei also advanced to the quarter-finals when they disposed of India’s Sai Pratheek-Tanisha Crasto of India 21-18, 21-18.

The Malaysians, however, have the unenviable task of trying to stop defending Asian Games champion and Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallists Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong of China tomorrow.

The world number one and three-time world champions progressed after trouncing Nepal’s Bishnu Katuwal-Nangsal Tamang 21-4, 21-7.

Another national mixed doubles pair – Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie – failed to progress after going down 21-17, 21-23, 13-21 to Thailand’s Supak Jomkoh-Supissara Paewsampran. – BERNAMA