'Don't expect too much from Zii Jia'

KUALA LUMPUR: Lee Zii Jia's manager, Lee Zii Yii, has played down the prospects of the world No 4 pulling off a similar comeback that saw him winning the All-England title two years ago.

Zii Yii said the 24-year-old Zii Jia, who's also her younger brother, is facing different circumstances that can't be compared to his exploits then.

In 2021, Zii Jia bounced back from a series of poor displays in the early season to claim the All England crown for the biggest triumph of his career.

Zii Jia entered the new season at that time with plenty of optimism but swiftly found himself under immense pressure after suffering back-to-back early exits at the Thailand Open and World Tour Finals in January.

Besides losing to the lower-ranked Sameer Verma of India in Bangkok, Zii Jia also lost all of his three group-stage matches including a humiliating 21-15, 21-4 loss to Denmark's Viktor Axelsen.

But Zii Jia would rise from his slump two months later by reaching the Swiss Open semi-finals and exacted sweet revenge on Axelsen to clinch the All England crown.

Hence, ahead of the trip to Europe next week, can Zii Jia rediscover his form to replicate the 2021 feat?

Zii Yii begs to differ.

"That was 2021 and we're already in 2023, a lot of things are different now. So, I can't say that the same thing will happen again," said Zii Yii, who was also a former national shuttler.

"What we can do now is to try our best to help get him in the best possible shape and see how well he can perform there.

"We can't turn back the clock. We have to try to make things better by learning from the past and improve. If we keep dwelling on the past, then we won't move forward," she said.

However, If Zii Jia's good track record in the past two years during the European swing is anything to go by, he is capable of bouncing back strongly.

Besides the 2021 exploits, Zii Jia also did reasonably well last year by making it to the semi-finals of both the German Open and All England.

Zii Jia, who could only reach the last 16 twice in the first three World Tour events this year, aims to get his game back in the right direction, starting with the German Open in Mulheim from March 7-12.

The Super 300 tournament presents him with a good opportunity to hit a high as he is seeded first for the tournament.

His other two stops are the All England (March 14-19) and Swiss Open (March 21-26).

Awaiting him in the first round in Birmingham is Sitthikorn Thammasin of Thailand while in Basel, he has a tough opening encounter against China's Li Shi Feng.

But Zii Jia is facing not only a struggle on the court, but also a potentially lengthy legal battle with his former coach Indra Wijaya, who sued him for an alleged "unfair dismissal".

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