Zii Jia dismisses hopes of retaining All-England title

Victorious: Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia (right) posing with the All-England trophy with runners-up Viktor Axelsen. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Two months before his All England title defence, Lee Zii Jia has dismissed his chances of repeating the feat.

The 23-year-old is not harbouring high hopes ahead of his return to the Arena Birmingham from March 16-20 as he is still working on stabilising his game.

“To be honest, defending the title will be quite difficult given the current circumstances,” said the world No. 7 after a training session yesterday.

“I think the more realistic target will be reaching the semi-finals or final.”

Zii Jia’s post All England yo-yo displays last year showed that he still has some way to go before he could be as consistent as Viktor Axelsen, Kento Momota and Chen Long.

Despite showing some of his best performances last year, notably leading Malaysia to a bronze at the Sudirman Cup in Finland, Zii Jia was also remembered for his uninspiring displays.

This includes bowing out in the last 16 at the Tokyo Olympics and several early exits in the World Tour events.

“I have several targets this year which include breaking into the world’s top five and (contending for medal) at the (Hangzhou) Asian Games,” he said.

“But the ultimate goal for me is to be able to maintain a stable performance (all year long).

“I have gained plenty of invaluable experience from the hectic tournament schedule last year and that is going to come in handy.

“I got to know in depth about my body condition and where my limit is.”

Apart from his All England victory, Zii Jia’s other notable outings were finishing runner-up at the Hylo Open and a semi-finalist at the World Tour Finals and Swiss Open.

At the World Championships in Huelva, Zii Jia’s campaign ended in the last eight after suffering blisters on his right foot.

Zii Jia was among the elite players who resumed training last week after they were given a three-week break following a gruelling four-month schedule which culminated with the world meet.

This group have been excluded from this week’s Indian Open and will prepare for the upcoming Badminton Asia Team Championships in Shah Alam from Feb 15-20.

The biennial meet also doubled up as the qualifier for the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Bangkok in May.

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