Malaysia badminton's back-up coach Indra Wijaya lauded teenager Zii Jia Lee for his inspiring run at the recently concluded Thailand Masters Grand Prix Gold.
While the badminton scene in the country was hit by the rift between world number Lee Chong Wei and Badminton Association of Malaysia technical director Morten Frost, the 18-year-old, who won a bronze at last year's World Junior Championships, earned the reputation of a giant-slayer with his strong show in Thailand.
In the absence of top-ranked shuttlers Chong Wei and Iskandar Zulkarnain in the new season, Malaysia singles shuttlers have failed to make an impact in the last two tournaments - Malaysia Masters and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold. While very little was expected of the second-string unit that campaigned in Thailand, Zii Jia's semi-final appearance has boosted the spirits of the camp.
The world number 230 created quite a few upsets enroute to the semi-final. In the third round, Zii Jia stunned ninth seed Ihsan Moulana Mustofa 21-19 and 21-14 and went on to decimate top seed and last year's Denmark Open winner Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 21-18, 21-12 before losing a hard-fought semi-final battle against eventual runner-up Kantapon Wangcharoen 15-21, 21-18, 20-22.
Zii Jia was dumped out of Malaysia Masters after first-round defeat to Indian shuttler Harsheel Dani but his run in Thailand has earned him quite a few fans including commentator Gillian Clark, who, according to the Star, compared the teenager's gameplay to reigning Olympic champion Chen Long's style.
Coach Indra believes that the youngster along with other young shuttlers, who played in Thailand over the last week, have gained valuable experience, which will help them in future.
"Zii Jia had a very good week and played very well in Thailand. He gained a lot of experience and learned so much from it just by reaching the semi-finals. He is definitely improving. And it is not just Zii Jia. Even Satheishtharan Ramachandran, who lost in the first round, played very well and I am happy with their progress," Indra said, as quoted by the Star.