WATCH out Lee Zii Jia!
A more confidant Zhao Junpeng of China is seeking revenge against the Malaysian at the biggest stage – the world championships – after losing to the world No. 5 in the men’s singles quarter-finals of the German Open in March.
The previous duel was their only meeting on the international stage.
“When I played against him earlier this year, I wasn’t confident enough. I hope that this time, I can do a lot better,” said the 23-year-old Junpeng, who went down with a meek 12-21, 18-21 defeat then.
Yesterday though, a brave Junpeng showed fire in his belly and a marked improvement in his game as he blew away 2021 world meet silver medallist K. Srikanth of India 21-9, 21-17 in the second round at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
“I didn’t think about Srikanth being a silver medal winner… I just wanted to do my best and I’m happy to go through,” he said.
The Chinese also caught the eye in the Indonesian Open in June when he stunned several higher-ranked players such as homester Jonatan Christie (No. 7) and India’s HS Prannoy (No. 18) before losing out to reigning Olympic Games champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the final.
Junpeng had also reached the semi-finals of the Singapore Open last month before narrowly succumbing to Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.
While Junpeng is turning out to be a real threat, Zii Jia, on the other hand, is also showing good progress in every match.
Yesterday, he had a good warm-up in his 21-9, 21-13 win over unheralded Bernardo Atilano of Portugal.
The Asian champion will be out to avoid an upset in the match against Junpeng and prove his title credentials ahead of a possible showdown with either India’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games champion Lakshya Sen or his compatriot HS Prannoy in the last eight.
Prannoy created the biggest upset of the day by dumping home favorite and two-time world champion Kento Momota of Japan 21-17, 21-16.
The other third round match-ups in the singles involves Viktor Axelsen (Den) vs Sitthikom Thammasin (Tha); Anthony Ginting (Ina) vs. Shi Yuqi (Chn); Chou Tien-chen (Tpe) vs. Lee Cheuk Yiu (Hkg); Jonatan Christie (Ina) vs. Wang Tzu-wei (Tpe); Angus Ng Ka Long (Hkg) vs. Loh Kean Yew (Sin); Kunlavut Vitidsarn (Tha) vs Kenta Nishimoto (Jpn).