Badminton

Thomas Cup: Malaysia still 'shaky' even with Zii Jia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia have to accept that they have a rocky path ahead in the Thomas Cup even if professional player Lee Zii Jia is available for their campaign in Chengdu, China, said former national men's singles champion Roslin Hashim.

He said Malaysia have been caught in a tricky situation due to uncertainties surrounding the participation of Zii Jia and Commonwealth Games 2022 silver medallist Ng Tze Yong.

"Tze Yong's injury has affected us, and if Zii Jia does not want to play, our team will be shaky.

"The team must be prepared to accept Zii Jia's decision. It may be a relief if he agrees to play, but I still can't see the way forward for the team in the Thomas Cup," he told Bernama.

Zii Jia's participation now hangs in the balance after Academy Badminton Malaysia coaching director Rexy Mainaky said yesterday that the world No. 11 is unsure of representing the country in the world men's team championship.

Rexy said Team LZJ is drawing up the best plans for the former All England champion in his quest for glory at the Paris Olympic Games, scheduled for July 26 to Aug 11.

The former doubles specialist from Indonesia had earlier said Tze Yong, who is undergoing rehabilitation following recent back surgery, might be listed for Thomas Cup duty, depending on his condition in the next few weeks.

Malaysia, seeded fifth in the Thomas Cup, have been drawn in Group D together with 2016 champions Denmark, Hong Kong and Algeria.

With Denmark being group favourites due to the strength of their singles, Roslin said the outcome against Hong Kong will be crucial in determining whether Malaysia can clear the group stage and qualify for the quarter-finals.

"Hong Kong will surely rely on their singles to steal points from Malaysia, who have the edge in the doubles.

"Let's say Zii Jia plays in the Thomas Cup; it is still difficult to predict his performance against Hong Kong's top player Angus Ng, who has a good record against him," he said.

Ka Long, ranked 26th in the world, has beaten Zii Jia four times in their seven meetings so far.

If both Zii Jia and Tze Yong are not available, Roslin said, Malaysia have no choice but to field Leong Jun Hao as the first singles, followed by two young players, Justin Hoh and Eogene Ewe.

Roslin, who helped Malaysia finish as runners-up in the 1998 and 2002 editions, hoped the players concerned would be prepared to shoulder the challenge in the absence of key players in Chengdu.

The closing date for submission of players' names for the Thomas Cup is April 13.

The Thomas Cup will be held from April 27-May 5. - BERNAMA

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