KUALA LUMPUR – National men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia has stamped his mark as a world-class shuttler in the 2020 Thomas Cup campaign, barring an inconsistent streak, said national badminton legend Datuk Rashid Sidek.
Despite that chink in his armour of transition, Rashid figures the 2021 All England champion has time on his side to overcome the weakness.
“Zii Jia is still not stable yet but he is already in the class of a top player because he has beaten all top 10 players in the world.. But not consistent yet…then again he is only 23, and needs one to two years to become consistent,” he said recently.
Rashid, a member of the national squad which won the Thomas Cup for the last time in 1992 in Kuala Lumpur, said Zii Jia and his coach have to be more discerning with which tournaments to play in from now.
According to Rashid, while competitions can strengthen the mental game, an overkill or high expectations can be detrimental.
“On the big stage, crowds expect him to at least reach the final if not finish as champion. Hence, the pressure,” he noted.
Zii Jia, ranked world no. 8, has recorded wins over any opposition from the world top-10 bracket thus far, among them Kento Momota of Japan, Viktor Axelsen (Denmark), Chou Tien Chen (Taiwan), Cheng Long (China) and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (Indonesia).
Meanwhile, Rashid believes Malaysia can end the drought of 30 years to regain the Thomas Cup if the national squad has a pool of highly skilled players for every event.
“At present, we see promising young players rising in the singles but in the doubles not yet. Maybe we concentrate on singles for now but inevitably, we must find a back-up pair to Aaron-Wooi Yik.
“We want to achieve a balanced national squad by 2024 where anyone can be a match-winner for the team,” he said.