by BERNAMA / pic by TMR FILE
KUALA LUMPUR – National men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia (picture) expects a much-improved performance from Kento Momota when Malaysia and Japan clash to decide the Group D champions in the 2021 Sudirman Cup competition today.
Momota, who is making his first appearance after crashing out in the group stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, struggled to impose his game against world number 205 Johnnie Torjussen of England before finally running out 22-20, 21-10 winner.
Although the world number one was far from his best at the Energia Areena, Zii Jia believes that Momota will be back to his best soon.
“I watched his game and I can see that he lacked confidence, but I believe he will still come back stronger because he is Momota. We know that prior to this, after his suspension, he still came back to become the world number one.
“I feel that for someone with a strong character like him, it will not be a big problem for him to come back stronger and get his confidence back,” he said via a video clip shared by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
Zii Jia said that today’s clash would be a crucial one between them because while Momota will be seeking to regain his momentum and take revenge on him, the Malaysian, who is the reigning All England champion, will be out to keep his winning run going.
World number eight Zii Jia, who had lost all six of his matches against Momota since 2017, finally got the better of the Japanese ace when he stunned Momota in the quarter-final of the All England before going on to clinch the title in March.
The two shuttlers have not played each other since then.
Two-time world champion Momota, 27, was suspended from badminton from April 2016 to May 2017 after admitting to gambling in a casino and had to fight his way back from a world ranking of 281.
As for his own performance, Zii Jia said it was at a good level and that he was still looking to regain his rhythm after more than two months of rest after the Tokyo Olympics ended in August.
Meanwhile, BAM coaching director Wong Choong Hann said Zii Jia should not take Momota lightly although the Japanese shuttler looks to be below his best.
“For our players, no matter who is fielded, whether it is Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong or Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin, they must be prepare to fight for victory… be it against Momota or anyone else,” he said.
Malaysia and Japan have qualified for the quarter-finals after recording wins over England and Egypt and their clash today is to see who will top the group.