PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei has backed his successor Lee Zii Jia (pic) to continue to sparkle when the badminton season makes its long-awaited return this month.
The former world No. 1 believes Zii Jia has the game to compete with the big boys and expects him to vie against the world’s top 10 on a regular basis.
The 22-year-old Zii Jia has been going great guns last year before the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to his remarkable progress.
He earned maiden wins over Denmark’s world No. 3 Anders Antonsen, Indonesia’s No. 7 Jonatan Christie, China’s No. 9 Shi Yuqi en route to impressive semi-final outings at the Malaysian Masters and All-England.
He also reached a career-best No. 10 in the world ranking.
Zii Jia made his presence felt in 2019 when he began to upset top players such as China’s Olympic champion Chen Long, Denmark’s former world champion Viktor Axelsen and Taiwan’s world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen.
And Chong Wei said it’s just a matter of time before Zii Jia would get the better of Japan’s world No. 1 Kento Momota and Anthony Ginting (No. 5) of Indonesia – the only two players he has yet to beat.
“Zii Jia is capable of beating anyone, I’m certain about that, ” said Chong Wei.
“It all depends on how well he trains and more importantly cope with the high expectations from the fans.
“Now that he’s the country’s top singles shuttler, everyone wants to see him beat the top players and do well in tournaments consistently.
“He’s still young and he can do it. I hope he will be able to fight to the top in the next one year or two.”
Being a top 10 player now, Zii Jia will no longer be content with just a couple of upsets as he would be expected to start contending for titles too.
He has not made it to any final on the World Tour since winning the Taiwan Open in 2018.
After a 10-month hiatus since the All-England, Zii Jia will get his first shot at returning to winning ways when he travels to Bangkok for the three-tournament World Tour bubble, comprising two Thailand Opens and the World Tour Finals from Jan 12-31.