KUALA LUMPUR: No Lee Chong Wei, no problem.
Up-and-coming national shuttler Lee Zii Jia is ready to carry the mantle in the men’s singles event at the Malaysian Open.
With the withdrawal of 12-time home championship winner, all eyes will be on the emerging 20-year-old to carry the hopes of Malaysian badminton fans at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil on April 2-7.
“I know there will be high expectations on me. And there are also those who hope that the other national shuttlers can be as successful as Lee Chong Wei, but for me there is no pressure,” said Zii Jia.
“I’m still young so there will be ups and downs as I’m still learning with every tournament. This is our home event and I will give my all and I’m confident the result will come.
“Despite Chong Wei’s absence, I hope the fans will still come to the Arena and support us as we are the future of badminton.”
Zii jia has been the epitome of consistency in the national team this year as the Kedahan made four quarter-final appearances in five tournaments.
He finished in the last eight at the Thailand, Malaysian, Indonesian Masters and the German Open. Along the way he has taken the scalps of world No. 3 Chou Tien-chien of Taiwan twice and world No. 11 Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.
His only blemish thus far was at the Swiss Open last week when he was overwhelmed by Indonesia’s own rising star, world No. 10 Jonatan Christie.
His strong runs have seen him make a huge leap from 42nd in the world rankings in January to 21st spot.
“Overall, I think my performance has been okay except for the loss to Jonatan in the opening round. He is fast becoming a good player.
“I think physically I was quite tired because I was playing in Europe for three weeks. So next time if I have back-to-back tournaments, I will take care of myself better.
“Overall, I learned a lot in Europe and now that I’m back I know what needs to be done for the Malaysian Open.”