PETALING JAYA: National men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia (pic) has vowed to keep his feet firmly on the ground and to continue to work hard to realise his dreams.
His first major win on Sunday at the Taiwan Open will leave a lasting memory but the 20-year-old does not intend to bask in the glory for too long.
“Everything that happened yesterday (on Sunday) ... it’s in the past now and I can assure everyone that I will not rest on my laurels,” said Zii Jia, who defeated Japan’s Riichi Takeshita in the final.
“This is just the start of my journey and I’m already looking forward to my next challenge, which is the Macau Open in two weeks.
“I want to sustain my form, get stronger and produce even better results in future,” added Zii Jia.
Zii Jia earlier regarded himself as a work-in-progress and pleaded for patience from the Malaysian badminton fans in becoming a world-class player.
But Zii Jia’s triumph in Taiwan — which he earned also by overcoming home favourite world No. 4 Chou Tien-chen in the last four — indicated that he has made significant progress since moving up to the senior ranks two years ago.
With the win, Zii Jia also holds the distinction of becoming the only second Malaysian other than Lee Chong Wei to win a Badminton World Federation (BWF) top flight men’s singles title since 2013.
Zii Jia said his target of breaking into the world top 30 by the end of this year remains unchanged although the win is expected to propel him significantly from his current No. 60 ranking.
“I want to be realistic and I think top 30 remains an ideal target,” said Zii Jia.
“I’m not going to raise the benchmark just because I have won a title and beating a world top five opponent for the first time. What’s more important is to stay focused and keep this confidence going.”
National men’s singles head coach Datuk Misbun Sidek has hailed Zii Jia’s impressive feat, saying that he did not see it coming.
“I want to congratulate him. But frankly, I was really surprised that he won because he has been struggling to find his performance lately,” said Misbun.
“It seemed that he has finally got things right, but I hope he stays grounded and build from this win.
“It will only get tougher now that he’s a tournament winner because opponents will be paying lots of attention and analyse his play in depth and be better prepared against him in future.”