PETALING JAYA: Asian champion Lee Zii Jia has adopted a low-key approach in his quest to end Malaysia’s agonizing wait for the World Championship title and this could pay dividends for him.
The national men’s singles shuttler has been staying under the radar and keeping his preparation under wraps since the beginning of July.
Zii Jia has also reduced his activity on social media, posting mostly sponsorship related content only.
The world No. 5 last participated in the Malaysian Open in early July and withdrew from the Malaysian Masters, Singapore Open and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games to focus fully on the world meet.
The decision to skip all the tournaments was to take his time to recover from a slight hip injury and to be in peak form for his third world outing.
Zii Jia’s decision to stay away from the public eye could benefit him after the furore caused by his withdrawal from the quadrennial Games.
In January, the 24-year-old also had to deal with the aftermath of his decision to leave the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and turn professional.
The Kedahan’s sacrifices and quiet approach could lead to history being made in Tokyo.
Zii Jia made clear his intention to capture the elusive title in an interview with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) after arriving fresh for the assault on Saturday.
“Malaysia have never won an Olympic Games gold or a World Championships title in badminton. Of course, I want to be the first to win them,” said Zii Jia.
“Hopefully, I will get to bring out my best, so we can see some good results this week.
He will open his campaign today against Brice Leverdez of France and others in his quarter are K. Srikanth of India, China’s Zhao Junpeng, second seed Kento Momota of Japan, Lakshya Sen of India and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark.
In the other quarter of the lower half, a tough battle looms for everyone as it includes players like defending champion Loh Kean Yew (Sin), Heo Kwang-hee (Kor), Anders Antonsen (Den), Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) and Kunlavut Vitidsarn (Tha).
The top half consists of top seed Viktor Axelsen (Den); Jonatan Christie and Anthony Ginting (Ina); Chou Tien-chen (Tpe); Shi Yuqi (Chn); and Ng Tze Yong and Liew Daren (Mas).
Tze Yong faces promising Indonesian star Chico Aura while Daren takes on Axelsen.
Meanwhile, Malaysia will also be banking on world No. 6 men’s doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik to challenge for the title.
In the women’s doubles, Birmingham Commonwealth Games gold medallists Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (No. 11) will be highly motivated to continue their fine form despite being handed a challenging draw.
In the mixed doubles, Malaysia’s best bets for medals will be independent pairings Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (No. 11) and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (No. 14).