LEONG Jun Hao overcame an early setback to bounce back from a game down before defeating China’s Lei Lan Xi in today’s opening round of the PERODUA Malaysia Masters 2024 at Axiata Arena. 

Today’s 13-21, 23-21, 21-12 win put the Malaysian on level terms with the Chinese who had defeated him in last year’s Korea Open. The world-ranked 37th Jun Hao started on a wrong note after finding himself down 13-21 in the first game after failing to match Lei’s aggressive play. 

Fans were put on the edge of their seats in the ensuing second game which saw both players fighting point for point, with Jun Hao edging the Chinese 23-21 to remain in contention in the rubber game. 

Jun Hao regained his confidence and clawed back strongly in the decider, pressuring Lei from the start which eventually saw the 25-year-old Kuala Lumpur-born winning 21-12 in the marathon one hour 21 minutes.  â€śIt was a hard match, especially in the second game which really tested my mental strength..but the support from fans lifted my spirits to fight for every point,” said Jun Hao, who will now clash against third seed Li Shi Feng in the second round. 

Malaysia’s professional shuttler Lee Zii Jia was also dragged into a three-game duel against China’s 40th-ranked Zhao Jun Peng before winning 21-19, 11-21, 21-14 in 61 minutes. After a tight first game, Zii Jia committed a series of errors, losing focus and allowing Zhao to get back into the game to win 21-11. The Malaysian however kept his composure with a more confident display in the decider to seal the game 21-14. 

Zii Jia is set to play against India’s Kiran George who had beaten Japan’s Takuma Obayashi to advance to the next stage.  â€śNot a good start in the first game but I was able to manage myself with better confidence in the second….happy I was able to manage my on-court pressure, keeping calm and remained focussed throughout the match,” said Zii Jia.

Meanwhile, it was also a close contest against men’s doubles pair Kim Yong Hyuk/Wang Chan but top seed Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik lived up to their billings with a 21-18, 22-20 win over the Korean pair in 33 minutes. 

The Malaysian top pair take on Chen Bo Yang/Liu Yi in their first encounter against the Chinese pair tomorrow. 

“It can be a bit tricky tomorrow as we’ve never played them before…but as for today, we’re quite happy with our performance, especially in handling fights for crucial points,” said Wooi Yik. 

Earlier in the day, Malaysia’s top seed mixed pair Chen Tang Jie/Toh Ee Wei cleared their early hurdles to check into the second round following a straight-game win over Thailand’s Pakkapon Teeratsakul/Phataimas Muenwong 21-12, 21-14.

“We’re thankful to fans and spectators who came in early to the arena to support us today. We’re truly highly motivated and gave our best to make it to the next round,” said Toh after the match.

Meanwhile, Choong Hon Jian/Go Pei Kee’s challenge in the tournament came to an end when they lost their first-round encounter to Korean mixed pair Wang Chan/Shin Seung Chan. The Malaysian young mixed pair put up a strong fight in the first game before losing 21-19, 21-16 in 44 minutes.

Mixed pair Hoo Pang Ron/Cheng Su Yin upstaged Chinese Taipei’s Hung Kuei Chun/Tsang Hiu Yan 21-16, 23-25 and will have Denmark’s second seed pair Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra Boke waiting for them in the second round.

In the women’s singles, K. Letshanaa’s campaign was halted after she was sent packing by China’s Han Yue, losing 21-14, 21-9 to the tournament’s top seed in 33 minutes.

Malaysia’s challenge in the women’s doubles will see second seed Pearly Tan/Thinaah Muralitharan taking on Indian pair Simran Singhi/Ritika Thaker while Go Pei Kee/Low Yeen Yuan will battle against Australian pair Setyana Mapasa/Angela Yu.  

Elsewhere, the sixth seed and former world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore suffered a shock first-round 20-22, 21-9, 18-21 defeat at the hands of Chinese Taipei’s world No.22 Wang Tzu Wei. 

Top seed Viktor Axelsen had no problem overcoming Japan’s Koki Watanabe with a 39-minute 21-14, 21-11 win for a meeting against Thailand’s Panitchaphon Teeraratsakul while fellow countryman champion Anders Antonsen had to endure a three-game 55-minute match before sealing a 12-21, 21-9, 21-17 over Indonesia’s Shesar Hiren Rhustavito to set up a meeting against teammate Magnus Johanessen. 

Malaysia’s Goh Jin Wei was forced to dig deep before winning over Ukrainian Polina Buhrova 21-16, 18-21, 21-14 and is up against Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the women’s singles contest tomorrow. 

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