Despite playing in her first international event in almost a year, Malaysian women's singles shuttler S. Kisona is ready to face decorated Indian star Saina Nehwal in the opening round of the Yonex Thailand Open this week.
Kisona was scheduled to only accompany the national contingent to Bangkok to serve as a sparring partner to team-mate Soniia Cheah, but got her big break in the main draw after Thai shuttler Nitchaon Jindapol withdrew from the event.
The last time the world number 92 got her big break, she ended up winning the SEA Games gold medal in 2019.
She isn’t expected to go all the way this time, but she said she would go out to give her best with nothing to lose.
“Saina is a talented and experienced player. It will be my first time playing her, so I will just go out to give my best. At this point, it will be good to just get back the tournament feel after not playing for a long time,” she told Stadium Astro.
Saina is ranked 20th on the world rankings, but that won’t faze Kisona too much. Last year, she beat two top 20 shuttlers in Aya Ohori and Sayaka Takahashi at the Asia Team Championships.
Meanwhile, Cheah faces an equally challenging test when she takes on upcoming South Korean youngster An Se-young in the first round.
In the men’s singles, eighth seed Lee Zii Jia is expected to get past India’s H.S. Prannoy, while Liew Daren has a much tougher test against recent Denmark Open winner Anders Antonsen.
The men’s doubles event sees world number nine pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik square off against fellow Malaysians Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong.
Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi face Indian duo M.R. Arjun-Dhruv Kapila, while Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin take on South Koreans Ko Sung-hyun-Shin Baek-cheol.
Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and Vivian-Yap Cheng Wen are expected to clear their first round hurdles against European opponents in the women’s doubles, but will have to contend against much tougher Asian counterparts should they progress.
In the mixed doubles, the national pairings have a decent chance of progressing far in the absence of the Japanese and Chinese pairs.
Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See take on top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the first round, while Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai are up against French pair Ronan Labar-Anne Tran.
Fifth seeds Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying should fancy their chances against Indonesians Adnan Maulana-Mychelle Crhystine, and another pair duo Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing face Germans Daniel Hess-Linda Efler.