After taking a very positive before the training camp in Ehime, Japan, Malaysia's No 1 shuttler Lee Zii Jia will be ready for a fresh start for next season's opening - the Perodua Malaysia Masters presented by Daihatsu.
The USD400,000 HSBC BWF World Tour event will be held at the Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil from Jan 7-12 and has attracted a strong international field as the Tokyo Olympics qualifying rounds hit the home stretch.
Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) Director of Coaching, Wong Choong Hann said the time has come for Zii Jia, who ended the year on a high note by winning the men's singles gold in the recent SEA Games in the Philippines, to stand up and be counted.
The 21-year-old Zii Jia has a tough opener against third seed and World No 4 Anders Antonsen of Denmark. The Dane has beaten the Malaysian in bothof the previous two meetings this year and both were achieved in Indonesia.
Zii Jia lost 13-21, 13-21 in the Daihatsu Indonesia Masters and 16-21, 11-21 in the Blibli Indonesia Open.
"He faces a very good opponent but I am looking forward to a good start by Zii Jia after winning the gold in the SEA Games. It is a boost to help him prepare how to pace himself and handle expectations," said Choong Hann.
"Zii Jia should learn to understand and grow himself to a bigger stage. The time has come for Zii Jia to show his potential what more when he will have the home support in the stands."
The Malaysian who is currently ranked No 14, returned to his hometown Alor Setar to take a break from badminton and indulge himself in basketball. His parents - dad Lee Chee Hin and mum Leow Siet Peng - teachers and former basketball internationals.
Zii Jia says the break from badminton has left him refreshed and energised for the new badminton season.
The Kedahan won the men's singles gold in Manila in the 30th Philippines Sea Games with a 21-18, 21-18 win over Singapore's Malaysian-born Loh Kean Yew in the final. He also helped Malaysia win the silver medal in the men's team event in the biennial games in the Philippines.
Zii Jia took up the game at the age of six when his father took him to a badminton club in his hometown.
Bitten by the shuttle bug, Zii Jia moved up to better things in the game and won the bronze medal in the 2016 World Junior Championships when he lost to Indonesia's Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo in the semi-finals.
The same year he reached the final in the India International Series but failed to win the title after losing to India's Lakshya Sen.
A year later he won his first senior international title when he defeated compatriot Soong Joo Ven 21-17, 21-16 in the Polish International men's singles final.
In 2018, Zii Jia achieved a breakthrough when he won the Chinese Taipei Open. After knocking out home favourite Chou Tien Chen in the semi-finals the young Malaysian defeated Japan's Riichi Takeshita 21-17, 16-21, 21-11 for his first BWF World Tour title.
This year, Zii Jia reached the quarter-finals in the Malaysian Masters, the Indonesia Masters, and German Open and reached the semi-finals in the Thailand Open.
In his debut World Championships campaign in Basel, Switzerland, Zii Jia reached the quarter-finals but was shown the exit by eventual champion Kento Momota of Japan.
Zii Jia has also taken the scalps of some of the big names in badminton, including reigning Olympic champion Chen Long of China and former world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
When Zii Jia helped Malaysia win the bronze medal in the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Alor Setar in 2018, team captain, Datuk Lee Chong Wei picked him as the next big name to rise from Malaysia in the world of badminton.
For years, no player has emerged as a worthy successor to the legendary three-time Olympic silver medallist. In Zii Jia, Malaysia might have just found another Lee to take up the mantle.
Perodua Malaysia Masters 2020, BWF’s Super 500 tournament, will take place from 7 -12 January and offers a total prize money of USD400,000. Perodua Malaysia Masters 2020 carries great significance for players who will be going all out to secure valuable points for qualification towards 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Fans will be given a “free treat” to watch the tournament on 7 January 2020 as the Badminton Association Malaysia (BAM) has confirmed that there will be no ticket charges on that particular day.
Tickets will only be charged for matches from 8 to 12 January. Tickets purchased from now until 25 December are entitled for a 10% discount.
Tickets ranging from RM49 to RM 289 according to categories (upper, lower, premium) are now on sale. Tickets ranging from RM13 to RM74 are also on sale now for students aged 4 to 18 and those born between 2001 to 2017.
Season passes are also available for the tournament. For further information and enquiries, log on to http://www.myticket.asia/
PHOTO CREDIT: Badmintonphoto