KUALA LUMPUR: Reigning All-England champion Lee Zii Jia is ready to raise the bar higher – to crack into the world’s top-five ranking.
Not contented to just to stay in the top 10, the 23-year-old has vowed to build on his career-best position of world No. 8 that he attained after his stunning victory in Birmingham two weeks ago.
However, Zii Jia reckons that he must bide his time before he can break the domination of the top five – Japan’s Kento Momota, Denmark’s duo Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen, Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen and Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting.
The ‘Big Five’ hegemony are set to remain at the top for a long period as they have raced away from the rest of the pack in terms of ranking points.
“It’s my goal to break into the world’s top five, ” said Zii Jia.
“I hope to accomplish it by next year, or 2023. I’m not in a hurry.
“It’s difficult to make it a short-term target because of the uncertainty of tournament schedule due to Covid-19. We can’t be sure if there’s any further cancellation of tournaments in months to come.”
Besides contending for a medal in his Olympics debut in Tokyo in July, Zii Jia also expressed his desire to retain his SEA Games gold medal in Hanoi.
If he wins the SEA Games gold again, Zii Jia will become the first Malaysian men’s singles shuttler to achieve the feat.
Tan Aik Huang and Datuk Punch Gunalan were the other Malaysian two-time gold medallists in the event but they did not win it back-to-back.
“Given the chance, I would love to play in the SEA Games later this year and defend my gold. It’s one of my targets for this year, ” admitted Zii Jia.
“But obviously the decision lies with the coaches. I’m just going to follow the plans they have for me.”
The Badminton Association of Malaysia have already announced their decision to send their back-up squad for the SEA Games during their recent meeting with the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) selection committee but it’s unsure whether they will change their mind.
The SEA Games, which is scheduled from Nov 21-Dec 2, also clashes with the World Championships in Huelva, Spain, from Nov 29-Dec 5 but if the world meet is cancelled, he probably then will have a chance to compete in the regional Games.
Yesterday, both Zii Jia and Swiss Open winners Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (women’s doubles) were honoured by having their pictures placed on the newly-created Wall of Champions at the lobby of Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.
The Wall of Champions, which will feature winners from World Tour-level events and above from this year onwards, is meant to spur on the other players to replicate their teammates’ success.
Zii Jia and Pearly-Thinaah were also presented with incentives of RM30,000 and RM15,000 respectively, which are given on top of the prize money they had earned for winning the titles.
For Zii Jia, he has now collected a cool RM277,000, which included the US$59,500 (RM247,000) champion’s purse he received. He can expect more windfalls in the weeks to come with the Kedah state government having also pledged to reward him for doing the country proud.