National shuttlers must be confident to achieve Thomas Cup target – Lee Zii Jia

By BERNAMA

Malaysia’s top men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia thinks that he and his teammates must be confident in their ability to reach the final at the 2022 Thomas Cup in Bangkok, this May.

The 2021 All-England champion said the national squad for the Asian Team Badminton Championships (BATC), which is being held at Setia Alam here, is the best they have at the moment.

“I think this is the best team we have, especially the younger players and those who have the experience of playing a few times. The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have also set the final as the target, so we must be confident,” he told reporters today.

Asked if professional players like Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi should be called up to join the Thomas Cup squad, the world number seven, who left BAM last month, said this should be taken into account by the coaching staff.

“If it can strengthen the team, why not? I think BAM are also open in this matter, so whoever is eligible, will definitely be called up,” he said.

Commenting on his performance this year, especially after going through two games in Group B in the BATC group stage, Zii Jia said although he was not yet at his best, he has improved compared to his inconsistent performances at the end of last year.

He said what was important for now was that he could handle the pressure on the court better, thus confident of a more consistent performance in the tournament series in Europe in March, with another two weeks to prepare after this.

“The pressure is there, before this I chased other players (when I was younger), the pressure was on them, I was just an opponent. But the pressure is on me now (because I am being chased by younger players), so I think if you want to be a good player, you have to know how to handle pressure,” he said.

At the BATC this time, Zii Jia put on an excellent performance to beat world champion Loh Kean Yew 21-6, 21-14 on Wednesday, but had to ‘sweat’ to overcome world number 343 Riku Hanato 15-21, 21-6 , 21-15 yesterday to help Malaysia beat Singapore 5-0 and Japan’s young squad 3-2.

The tournament series in Europe will begin with the German Open from March 8-13, followed by the All England (March 16-20), the Switzerland Open (March 23-27) before moving on to Asia with the Korean Open in April.