Lee Zii Jia eases into last-16 with straight-games win at Malaysia Open

Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia holds his left fist in the air. (PHOTO: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images)
Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia reacts after beating Ireland's Nhat Nguyen at the Malaysia Open. (PHOTO: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images)

Top Malaysian shuttler and reigning Asian champion Lee Zii Jia eased into the next round of the Malaysia Open, defeating Ireland's world No.40 Nhat Nguyen in the men's singles round of 32 at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday (29 June).

The world No.5 - semi-finalist at the prestigious Indonesia Open two weeks ago - overwhelmed his opponent after both mid-game breaks, as he charged from 10-all ties in both games to comfortably take the match 21-15, 21-11 in 47 minutes.

Lee - who won the Badminton Asia Championships and Thailand Open last month - will next face world No.26 Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the round of 16 on Thursday. The Indonesian shuttler had advanced after his last-32 opponent, Denmark's world No.12 Rasmus Gemke, retired with injury while leading 21-15, 9-11.

Should Lee win his next match, he could set up a mouth-watering clash with world No.2 Kento Momota of Japan in the quarter-finals of the US$675,000 (RM2.97 million) Open.

The 24-year-old caused a stir recently when he decided to skip the Commonwealth Games in end-July to focus on the Badminton World Championships in August. His decision was met with disappointment by the Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Faizal Azumu, and sparked an online debate on athlete selection for major Games.

Four doubles pairs advance on Wednesday

Malaysia's other men's singles player Ng Tze Yong, 22, could not make it past the opening round, as he was beaten by China's Lu Guangzu after a gruelling 87-minute battle, falling 16-21, 23-21, 18-21.

The host nation will however have a strong presence in the doubles events, with four more pairs joining five who had advanced on Tuesday.

World No.6 men's doubles pair Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Aik had little trouble in beating Japan's Akira Koga and Taichi Saito 21-18, 21-19 in 42 minutes.

Two women's doubles pairs advanced, as Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan took 42 minutes to subdue China's Liu Xuanxuan and Xia Yuting 22-20, 21-14. They were followed by Anna Cheong and Teoh Mei Xing, who defeated Ireland's Kate Frost and Moya Ryan 21-12, 21-5 in just 24 minutes.

In the mixed doubles, Chen Tang Jie and Valeree Siow outlasted Japan's Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsumoto 21-16, 14-21, 21-10 in 54 minutes.