Zii Jia sure of overcoming Canada, but wary of Brian threat
From R. Vikneswaran
AARHUS (Denmark), Oct 11 – Stepping onto court in a do-or-die mission against Canada tomorrow (early Wednesday in Malaysia), team captain Lee Zii Jia is optimistic that the national squad will be victorious in booking a ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2020 Thomas Cup.
The All England champion, keeping his faith in the ability of the second and third men’s singles, believes Malaysia can overcome Canada at Ceres Arena here.
Apart from Zii Jia, the other men’s singles shuttlers in the Malaysian squad this time are Ng Tze Yong, Cheam June Wei, Leong Jun Hao and Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin.
However, Zii Jia, 23, admitting that he is the torch-bearer of the men’s singles, faces the resolve of a youthful star, 19-year-old Brian Yang, who is highly motivated following his shock dispatch of world No. 7 Jonatan Christie of Indonesia 9-21, 22-20, 21-18 in the recent Sudirman Cup.
Ominously, in Group D opening action of the Thomas Cup on Sunday, Brian, who is ranked 39th in the world, upset world No. 13 Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan 21-18, 19-21, 21-13.
“Overall, I think he (Brian) is an attacking player who is riding high on confidence after upsetting Jonatan. Even when not under pressure, he will bring the fight to anyone, this is the challenge I am facing,” he said.
On the odds of who will emerge champion in this edition of the Thomas Cup, the world No. 8 placed his bet on host Denmark, Indonesia and Japan.
Malaysia who are in Group D, only need a win over Canada to book a spot in the quarterfinals after England withdrew, though a subsequent defeat of Japan on Thursday to top the group will pave an easier route to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s men’s singles coach Hendrawan said several national players may not see action due to England’s withdrawal, which has altered the equation whereby he cannot risk fielding rookies against Canada.
“We can only decide on the final line-up on match day after assessing their readiness and spirit because the tie is crucial. But for sure, Zii Jia bears the responsibility of first singles.
“On paper, we have no problems overcoming Canada, but we cannot take them lightly and have to showcase our best. After that, we can review the game plan against Japan but without doubt, only the best players who are raring to go will see action,” he explained.
Men’s doubles coach Flandy Limpele on the other hand, believes his charges can deliver two points against Canada, even though he has yet to decide on the second pair, while Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik are certain to troop out as the leading doubles.
With the other options being Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzudin Rumsani and Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun as well as reserve player Low Hang Yee, Flandy said they will plan the best strategy which could include picking a new pair.
“For now, all the players are in their top mettle although some are shrugging off fatigue from the Sudirman Cup. My training emphasis was on the mental aspect, to strengthen their spirit… I want fighters only,” he said.