Zii Jia’s run in Thailand shows there’s a future for men’s singles

Lee Zii Jia

PETALING JAYA: Badminton made the headlines for all the wrong reasons last week no thanks to the fallout between world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) technical director Morten Frost.

The Chong Wei-Frost issue seems to have been resolved after BAM president Tan Sri Mohd Al-Amin Abdul Majid mediated to defuse the tension.

All the drama also overshadowed the inspired displays of Lee Zii Jia (pic) at the Thailand Masters.

The 18-year-old, ranked a lowly No. 230 in the world, had a week to remember as he reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix Gold event on Saturday.

En route to the last four, the world junior championships bronze medallist upstaged world No. 38 Ihsan Maulana Mustofa of Indonesia in the third round and world No. 11 Tanongsak Saensom­boonsuk, the Denmark Open winner, in the quarter-finals.

Zii Jia, however, just fell short in his bid to reach the final as he went down fighting 21-15, 18-21, 20-22 to his junior rival, Kantaphon Wangcharoen, also 18, in the semi-finals.

The lanky shuttler, though, can take heart from his performances with renowned badminton commentator Gillian Clark even comparing his gameplay to Olympic gold medallist Chen Long of China.

Zii Jia’s impressive run is a much needed boost for the Malaysian singles camp that are struggling to produce quality players.

And national back-up coach Indra Wijaya believes his young charge has a bright future ahead of him.

“Zii Jia had a very good week and played very well in Thailand,” said Indra.

“He gained a lot of experience and learned so much from it just by reaching the semi-finals. He’s definitely improving.

“And it’s not just Zii Jia. Even R. Satheishtharan, who lost in the first round, played very well and I’m happy with their progress,” added Indra.

Meanwhile, world No. 142 Kantaphon failed to go all the way as he lost to Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto 21-17, 21-11 in yesterday’s final.

The Thais, however, still had something to celebrate after Busa­nan Ongbamrungphan down­ed Japan’s Aya Ohori 21-18, 21-16 for the women’s singles crown.

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