KUALA LUMPUR: National singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is not counting himself out when up against the best from China and India at the Sudirman Cup in Nanning, China, starting today.
Zii Jia’s confidence stems from the fact that the world No. 20 will be playing without pressure.
China may field world No. 2 Shi Yuqi or world No. 5 Chen Long as the first singles while India will be banking on their world No. 9 K. Srikanth in Group D.
Although ranked lower than all of them, the 21-year-old Zii Jia said he aims to surpass the expectations and pressure in the world mixed team meet.
“Malaysia are clearly the underdogs. But I see it as a good opportunity to compete against the top players. It’ll be a good learning experience for me,” said Zii Jia.
“I want to take it as a challenge by bringing out my best to create an upset and get a point for the team.”
The other men’s singles player in the squad is Cheam June Wei.
When asked who he preferred to play between Shi Yuqi and Chen Long, Zii Jia said: “It’ll be Chen Long because his performance hasn’t been as stable or consistent as Shi Yuqi, who is younger and more fresh.”
On paper, 10-time winners China are expected to top the group, leaving Malaysia and India to fight for the other ticket for the quarter-finals.
Only the top two in the group advance to the last eight.
Against Malaysia, India are expected to win the points through Srikanth and their women’s singles players - either world No. 5 P. V. Sindhu or world No. 9 Saina Nehwal.
Malaysia have higher-ranked players in all the three doubles events - men, women and mixed - but it will be a folly to underestimate the Indians.
“There is less pressure on the singles players against India.
“I take that positively as I may be able to step up when the least is expected from me,” said Zii Jia.
It is not the first time that Zii Jia will be playing in a major team event.
He played as the second singles at last year’s Thomas Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, and won all his three group matches, beating Russia’s Sergey Sirant (21-13, 21-16), Alegria’s Youcef Sabri Medel (21-6, 21-13) and Den-mark’s Hans Kristian Vittinghus (21-18, 21-18).
He went down fighting to world No. 8 Jonatan Christie (15-21, 21-11, 13-21) and Malaysia eventually lost 1-3 to Indonesia.
“The environment of the Thomas and Sudirman Cup tournaments are almost the same.
“The team will be counting on me and I take that responsibility seriously,” he added.
Malaysia have never won the Sudirman Cup but their best is a semi-final finish at the 2009 edition in Guangzhou, China.