Come back stronger, Lee Zii Jia!
The last-16 defeat to China's Zhao Jun Peng at the World Championships is a bitter pill to swallow, but Zii Jia should not be disheartened by the result.
The pressure to succeed and the expectation he had put on himself by targeting the world title rightly became his biggest enemies in Tokyo.
It was brave to target the world title although things did not work out for him. Instead of crying over it, Zii Jia, at 24, has time on his side to work on his game and become better.
Netizens are divided over his early exit. Although many hope he will bounce back, some blame his poor decisions over the last few months for the defeat.
Many have labelled him arrogant and bigheaded for his controversial decisions, from quitting the national team to withdrawing from Malaysia's Commonwealth Games squad.
His excuse for skipping the Birmingham Games was to recover from a hip injury and prepare for the World Championships.
However, beating lower-ranked players from France and Portugal in the opening rounds and then losing to a world No 23 China shuttler will go down as a poor showing by Zii Jia.
Did he make a poor decision by opting not to play for about 50 days just to focus on the world meet?
Zii Jia definitely has the talent, but it needs to be polished like a fine diamond for him to match Victor Axelsen's exploits in becoming world and Olympic champion.
Although Zii Jia has a team of coaches and support staff to help him with his game as an independent shuttler, many wonder whether this will work for him in the long run.
Did he make a mistake by turning professional too early in his career?
It does not seem so, as he has recorded a few notable results this year, with the Asian Championships crown the biggest to date as a professional.
However, there is probably a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of his training programme — a crucial piece which will help him become a world or Olympic champion.
Being a professional in Malaysian badminton is not easy. Many have done so and failed to take the next step in their careers.
Results are also important for a pro to sustain sponsorship. Although Zii Jia has a mega deal with Victor for a few years, he will lose out in the future if he does not maintain his form.
The best for Zii Jia is to return to Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) when BAM open their doors to professional players soon.
BAM want to collaborate with top independent players and offer them facilities at ABM to help them grow together with the national shuttlers.
This will help Zii Jia to develop as a player and use other support services to develop his game.
Only Zii Jia can make this decision as he knows better. However, going by his inconsistent performances, it could be the best option.
Ajitpal Singh is the Sports Editor of NST and a Red Devil.