Zii Jia and Co seek happy results in Bangkok amid lockdown news at home

This handout from the Badminton Association of Thailand taken and released on January 10,2021 shows an official wearing a face mask and shield while wiping down spectator seats as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, ahead of the Thailand Open badminton tournament in Bangkok. (Photo by Handout/ BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF THAILAND/ AFP)/ -----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/ BADMINTON ASSOCIATION OF THAILAND " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

PETALING JAYA: It’s lockdown at home but our national shuttlers will finally get to see action in Thailand to bring some cheer.

After 10 months of being deprived from international competitions, world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia and Co will be playing their hearts out at the Yonex Thailand Open starting today at the Impact Arena in Bangkok under a bubble system.The unprecedented tournament bubble has been created so that players will be able to play in the best and safest environment possible. The Thai Open is the first of three tournaments to be staged in Bangkok. It will be followed with the second Open next week and the World Tour Finals from Jan 27-31.

All eyes will surely be on Zii Jia and world No. 9 men’s doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, who are seen as the best bets to deliver the much-needed title for the nation.

Hopes are high especially for Zii Jia to finally deliver.

The much-improved 22-year-old impressed the last time he was in action at the All-England, where he went all the way to the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in March last year.

Zii Jia however, believes his outstanding display in Birmingham 10 months ago will count for nothing as every player will return to the court on equal terms.

“To me, everyone is starting from zero. No one has any advantage over the other, ” said Zii Jia, who opens against H. S. Prannoy tomorrow.

“All-England is in the past now, I have to start from scratch and concentrate. There are no favourites here and I will not underestimate anyone.”

Mixed doubles shuttler Lai Pei Jing admitted she was feeling ‘tensed’ ahead of the long-awaited return.

“I’m super excited and yet nervous. I’m trying to stay calm before my first match on Wednesday (tomorrow), ” said Pei Jing, who forms the world No. 12 partnership with Tan Kian Meng.

“We have to quickly regain that long lost feeling (of playing in a competition), the sooner the better as this is an elimination tournament. You can’t afford to take too long.”

Kian Meng-Pei Jing will be relieved to know that they will now face unheralded German Daniel Hess-Linda Effler in the first round, who replaced world No. 5 Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino of Japan.

Japan and China have withdrawn due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aaron-Wooi Yik face compatriots Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong today. The others in action today are Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani in the men’s doubles; S. Kisona (women’s singles); Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See (mixed doubles).All the 216 players and 824 tournament personnel in the bubble have been tested since their arrival on Jan 4 and their final and fourth tests have returned negative.This is definitely pleasant news as they can now focus on pursuing glory with peace of mind.

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