Time is ripe for Zii Jia to turn things around ahead of world meet


Debutant: Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn is one of the players to play Lee Zii Jia in Group B. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: National badminton legend Lee Chong Wei has backed his successor Lee Zii Jia to bounce back strongly when the World Tour Finals gets under way in Bali today.

The three-time Olympics silver medallist believes a good showing in the season-ending event would be crucial to help restore Zii Jia’s confidence ahead of the World Championships next month.

The world No. 8 Zii Jia has struggled to replicate the form that saw him steer Malaysia to a creditable third-placing at the Sudirman Cup in Finland.

Zii Jia was fortunate to avoid in-form reigning Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and world champion Kento Momota of Japan, who were drawn in Group A.

The All-England champion will have the company of India’s K. Srikanth, Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn and Frenchman Toma Junior Popov in Group B.

Three-time world junior champion Kunlavut and Popov are debutants.

On paper at least, Zii Jia should finish top two in the group with ease as he was unbeaten in all the two meetings with Srikanth and three with Popov.

Zii Jia will seek to avenge his earlier defeat to Kunlavut in the semi-finals of the Swiss Open in March when the two clash in the opening group match today.

“There will be no easy matches this week,” Zii Jia told Badminton World Federation (BWF) official website.

“I think my draw looks a little kinder for my group. But I’m feeling good, strong and my target is to get to the semi-finals. That would be great.”

Chong Wei, who’s a four-time winner of the Finals said: “It’s certainly a good draw for Zii Jia so it is up to him to make it count.”

“I want to see Zii Jia win back his confidence from this final leg in Bali. His confidence must have been affected after last week’s first round defeat (to Rasmus Gemke at the Indonesian Open).

“When a player is going through a rough patch, it’s common that he loses some of his confidence. But what’s important is that he must figure out what went wrong.

“Is he mentally tired? Is he losing focus? Or poor preparation? He has to get to the root of the problem and fix it.

“It’s really crucial that Zii Jia get back on track because the World Championships is coming up next.”

In the men’s doubles, Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi will be aiming to get off to a winning start too when they take on Popov brothers Christo-Toma Junior of France.

Yew Sin-Ee Yi’s chances of making the semi-finals also look bright as they have avoided being drawn with favourites world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya and Olympic champions Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin.

But they have French Open and Indonesian Masters champions Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi and Indonesian youngsters Pramudya Kusumawardana-Yeremia Rambitan in their group.

MEN’S SINGLES

Group A: Viktor Axelsen (Den), Rasmus Gemke (Den), Lakhsya Sen (Ind), Kento Momota (Jpn)

Group B: Lee Zii Jia (Mas), K. Srikanth (Ind), Kunlavut Vitidsarn (Tha), Toma Junior Popov (Fra)

MEN’S DOUBLES

Group A: Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya (Ina), Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (Den), Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin (Tpe), Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty (Ind)

Group B: Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (Jpn), Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi (Mas), Pramudya Kusumawardana-Yeremia Rambitan (Ina), Christo Popov-Toma Junior Popov (Fra)

WOMEN’S SINGLES

Group A: Pornpawee Chochuwong (Tha), P.V. Sindhu (Ind), Yvonne Li (Ger), Line Christophersen (Den)

Group B: Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn), Busanan Ongbamrungphan (Tha), An Se-young (Kor), Yeo Jia Min (Sin)

WOMEN’S DOUBLES

Group A: Rawinda Prajongjai-Jongkolphan Kittitharakul (Tha), Kim So-yeong-Kong Hee-yong (Kor), Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (Mas), Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu (Ina)

Group B: Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida (Jpn), Gabriela Stoeva-Stefanie Stoeva (Bul), Chloe Birch-Lauren Smith (Eng), Ashwini Ponnapa-N. Sikki Reddy (Ind)

MIXED DOUBLES

Group A: Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino, Mathias Christiansen-Alexandra Boje (Den), Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (Mas), Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (Mas)

Group B: Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanchai (Tha), Marcus Ellis-Lauren Smith (Eng), Tang Chun Man-Tse Ying Suet (Hkg), Praveen Jordan-Melati Oktavianti (Ina)

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