Now’s the best chance for Lee Zii Jia to redeem himself, re-discover his lost form

AS giant killer Ng Tze Yong bowed out of the All-England Badminton Open tournament with his head held high, the onus is now on compatriot and World’s No. 4 Lee Zii Jia to pick up the pieces as Malaysia’s sole representative as the prestigious sports event reaches the semi-finals stage today.

As the 22-year-old Tze Yong was a pale shadow of himself after his gigantic feat of inflicting a defeat on tournament’s men’s singles favourite and defending champion Victor Axelsen of Denmark when he went down tamely to China’s Li Shi Feng 21-11, 21-11, Zii Jia exacted sweet revenge on Japan’s Kodai Naraoka to reach his fourth consecutive men’s singles semi-finals at the Utilita Arena yesterday (March 17).

After six consecutive early round exits in the run-up to the All-England championship, this year’s tournament will a good platform for the 24-year-old independent shuttler to redeem himself – both personally and to his fans who have begun to lose faith in him after a turbulent start to 2023.

The Kedahan who is embroiled in a legal suit from his former Indonesian coach Indra Wijaya over alleged breach of contract has certainly put aside all his ‘outside badminton court’ troubles to be his old self once again to even the score with world No. 6 Kodai whom he had narrowly lost to in the first round of the Malaysian Open in January (coincidentally this defeat kickstarted the spate of Zii Jia’s early exits in ensuing tournaments).

It was a breathtaking moment to watch the top national shuttler who is often touted as a replacement to Datuk Lee Chong Wei to stay focus throughout his match before he emerged triumphant 21-9, 10-21, 21-13 in 67 minutes.

Awaiting Zii Jia in the semi-finals tonight (Malaysian time) is a tough encounter against China’s world No. 12 Shi Yu Qi who is making a terrific comeback after a prolonged injury woes for a place in the final.

Could Birmingham be a happy hunting ground for Zii Jia to clinch his second All-England title which he won in 2021?

“Being an independent player is a new challenge and it seems like it’s a tough challenge for me now,” he told the Badminton World Federation (BWF) in a recent interview. “I have chosen it and I have to face it now.

“I’m trying my best to regain my confidence, to find what I’ve lost which is character and confidence. What’s happening is tough but life goes on. We have to move forward and I just can’t give up. Because I’m already here. Everybody told me it’s a process, just be patient. I just try to do what I have to do now.” – March 18, 2023


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