Growing up, the YONEX All England was one of the tournaments that loomed large for Lee Zii Jia. Last year he expected to make his debut but wasn’t able to. It is with great excitement therefore that the Malaysian anticipates his first appearance at the All England tomorrow.
“Last year I came here as I was on the reserves’ list and I expected that I maybe had the chance to play, but unluckily I couldn’t. It’s a big tournament and I’m quite excited as it’s my first time. Hopefully I will have a good result here,” said the world No.13, on the eve of the tournament.
“Of course all badminton players dream of playing at the All England. I’m very excited. For me it’s a bit different from the other tournaments because the environment here is like, it’s something very big, the atmosphere here is a big tournament feeling.”
Lee will take on Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie in the men’s singles opener. Should he pass that test, it will be either China’s Lu Guang Zu or Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangchaoren in the second. But Lee isn’t thinking beyond the first step, as he has a 0-4 record against the Indonesian:
“I’ve lost a few times to Christie. I’m hoping I get my revenge here and hoping it will be my breakthrough.”
The men’s singles draw appears quite open this year, and Lee is capable of creating ripples, for he comes into the All England after a promising early season. He made the semifinals of the Malaysia Masters, and then, quite significantly, led his team to the final of the Badminton Asia Team Championships. He was the spearhead in Malaysia’s defeat of India, Korea (quarterfinals) and Japan (semifinals), beating Sai Praneeth, Heo Kwang Hee and Kanta Tsuneyama, before the Malaysians ran out of steam against Indonesia in the final.
“As you can see, last year I struggled in many quarterfinals, so it was a breakthrough for me, making the semifinals in my first tournament of the year,” he says, of his Malaysia Masters performance. “I hope I can keep it up and do better and produce good results.
“In a team event, the first singles is very important point and you need to take it to uplift your team’s spirits. It’s most important, and I was under pressure.”
Lee recognises that, while his graph has climbed upward, he has to add certain critical elements to his game. And while Kento Momota won’t be around at the All England this year, Lee is hoping he can adapt some features of the world champion to his own game.
“Momota’s fitness, he’s very good,” Lee says, on the one outstanding aspect that he hopes to evolve. “It’s hard to kill him on court because he can get every shot – and me, I make so many unforced errors.
“I need to be more stable. I’m making many unforced errors on court sometimes. My performance also is up and down. One of my weaknesses is that I make too many unforced errors.
“Me and my coach are working on a plan.”