Lee warms up at Olympics venue for tougher battle ahead

Raring to see action: A fit again Lee Zii Jia can’t wait to get into the fray at the French Open which will be played at the Adidas Arena which is also the venue for badminton during the Paris Olympic Games.

PETALING JAYA: Singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is ready to soak in the pre-Olympic Games atmosphere at the Adidas Arena in Paris when he gets into action on the opening day of the French Open today.

The French Open has been brought forward earlier than its usual slot in October so that the organisers can test the venue, which will host the Olympic Games from July 26-Aug 11.

World No. 10 Zii Jia will face off against Magnus Johannesen of Denmark in the first round.

Coach Wong Tat Meng said Zii Jia had gone through a good two weeks of training in Kuala Lumpur and was ready to embrace the new atmosphere.

“We’re playing at the Olympics venue here for the first time. With the Games starting in just five months time, this is an opportunity for Zii Jia to get a taste of how it will be like to play in the Olympics at this same venue,” said Tat Meng.

“This is like a test run for the organisers. We know that the heat in the build-up for the Olympics will intensify starting with the French Open.”

Tat Meng is happy with Zii Jia’s form, who is coming back after struggling with sinus during the Asia Team Championships in Shah Alam last month.

“Zii Jia has not indicated that he is dealing with the same health problem since arriving here. He is keeping himself warm and taking all precaution to be in good form and spirit here,” said Tat Meng.

“We have had our practice here and he is ready to give his best.”

The French Open is the first out of the three European legs that Zii Jia will be competing in. The others are next week’s All-England followed by the Swiss Open.

The former All-England champion will also represent Malaysia in the Asian Badminton Championships in Ningbo, China from April 9-14 and also likely to lead the team at the Thomas Cup Finals in Chengdu, China next month from April 27-May 5.

“He is currently ranked 10th in the Road to Paris ranking and we hope he can move into the top eight to be seeded at the Olympics.

Last year, Zii Jia lost in the second round of the French Open after losing to China’s Li Shifeng but did better in the All-England and Swiss Open by reaching the semi-finals respectively.

In the French Open, if he clears the first round against Johannesen, he will play the winner of the match between second seed Shi Yuqi of China and reigning German Open champion Christo Popov of France.

“We hope for good results and consistent performances but it will not be easy. He may face Shi Yuqi in the second round here and has a first round match-up with Kodai Naraoka of Japan in the All-England next week,” said Tat Meng.

Zii Jia is the sole Malaysian representative in the men’s singles as Ng Tze Yong has withdrawn from the Europe tournaments following a back injury.

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