PETALING JAYA: The 26-year old Soniia Cheah did not disappoint the nation, being the women’s singles representative at the Tokyo Olympics Games next year as she defeated China’s Cai Yan Yan in the opening round of the Indonesian Open yesterday.
Soniia, who is ranked 37th in the world, destroyed the world No. 15 21-8, 21-17 in 32 minutes.
“It’s a very good start for me to win like this in the first round. The first game she made some mistakes and I capitalised on it,” said Soniia.
“I too made some errors and hopefully, I’ll perform better in the next round. Overall, I’m glad that I managed to overcome the tough opener.”
Soniia’s performance became the country’s hope to become the top woman shuttler while the World No. 25 Goh Jin Wei is sidelined indefinitely due to her stomach ailment.
The country is doubtful that Jin Wei can return in time to chase the Olympic points before the end of the qualifying period in April next year.
With this expectation, Soniia have to rise to the occasion again today as her second-round opponent is world No. 2 Nozomi Okuhara.
In their last six matches, Soniia has yet to defeat the Japanese who is the Rio Olympics bronze medallist and the 2017 world champion, but this does not worry her.
“It’s difficult but I’m not afraid. I will give all I’ve got and hope for the best, just like I did against Yan Yan.”
Meanwhile, Lee Zii Jia, the sole Malaysian representative in the men’s draw, also advanced to face off with the reigning Olympic champion and world No. 4 Chen Long of China.
Zii Jia defeated Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab 21-14, 21-13 in the first round. “The court here has a strong draught and it’s not easy to control the shuttle. I hope I can get used to it because I will be up against Chen Long,” said Zii Jia.