Zii Jia primed for a Malaysia first

GIVEN his current form, world No 5 Lee Zii Jia is one of the favourites to win the Indonesia Masters men's singles title, but the 24-year-old must not get too ahead of himself.

No Malaysian has ever won the men's singles title since the inception of the Super 500 event in 2010.

Former national women's doubles Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei are the only Malaysians to have won a title at the Indonesia Masters, achieved in 2011.

Zii Jia's coach Indra Wijaya is aware that expectations are high for his Kedah-born charge to clinch the title this week but does not want to put him under too much pressure.

Speaking to Timesport ahead of Zii Jia's first round match against Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen, Indra said: "I am well aware that Malaysian badminton fans are very enthusiastic, and I applaud that.

"Surely everyone wants to win, and it will be great for Zii Jia to be the first Malaysian men's singles to be crowned Indonesia Masters champion.

"However, we need to understand that we have to play one match at a time to go as far. Other top players are also training hard to win.

"Zii Jia has prepared well for this tournament.

"Physically he is in good shape, and we have come here to get the best possible result, including winning the title."

Zii Jia has been on fire since turning professional in January.

In February, he inspired Malaysia to a historic Asia Team Championships title in Shah Alam. And in May, he was crowned champion at the Asia Championships in Manila.

And despite Malaysia crashing out in the quarter-finals of the Thomas Cup in Bangkok, Zii Jia kept a perfect slate, not dropping a single match at the world men's team meet.

A week after the Thomas Cup, Zii Jia bagged his second consecutive title in May when he clinched the Thailand Open title.

"As I have mentioned earlier, surely everyone wants to win, nobody competes to lose.

"But winning titles should not be the only indicator of how good a player is.

"I don't want to make empty promises.

"My advice to Zii Jia is to play well and take it from there," added Indra.

Zii Jia's training partner and assistant coach, Liew Daren, and Soong Joo Ven are the other Malaysian shuttlers who will take to court today in the first round.

Daren will play China's Lu Guang Zu, while Joo Ven, who cleared the qualifying rounds yesterday, takes on world No 4 Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan.

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