PETALING JAYA: So close but yet so far.
Although coach Hendrawan and Lee Zii Jia are both in Bangkok for the Thailand Open starting tomorrow, they have only been able to analyse the game via FaceTime since they arrived on Jan 4.
But Hendrawan is cool about it.
“This is the new norm for us, we have to get used to it, ” said Hendrawan.
“Many things are new to us here, we have to adapt and adjust. Zii Jia and I have been discussing game tactics more via online.”
Under the bubble system, the players only get together with their coaches during the training sessions. As the training sessions are limited, all the other activities, including discussions and game analysis, will have to be done online when they are in the hotel.
The team will go through one more Covid-19 swab test, their fourth since leaving Malaysia, and hopefully, after that, there will be a more relaxed access when the competition begins tomorrow. Thailand is also hosting the second Open next week, followed by the World Tour Finals from Jan 27-31.
The only thing that is in Hendrawan’s mind is for Zii Jia to regain the form that saw him go all the way to the All-England semi-finals in March last year.
“Zii Jia had found his form en route to the All-England last year but after a long break since then, it’s not easy to get that feel-good factor back, ” said Hendrawan.
“I’ll be more than happy if he can find that form.
“In this week’s Thailand Open, everyone will enter with an equal chance of winning.
“All of them have experienced the same thing – lack of competitions, limited training and etc. Those who are able to adapt quickly under the new norm will have a slight advantage.”
In the absence of top seed Kento Momota and former All-England champion Shi Yuqi due to the withdrawals of Japan and China respectively, world No. 10 Zii Jia will begin the tournament as the eighth seed.
He faces H.S. Prannoy of India in the first round. If he wins, he meets the winner of an all-Indian first-round match between Sourabh Verma and K. Srikanth.
If he comes through it, he will likely play second seed Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan in the quarter-finals.