SHAH ALAM, Feb 12 — National professional men’s singles player Lee Zii Jia is primed for action at the 2024 Badminton Asia Team Championships (BATC) from tomorrow until February 18 after returning from top-flight training in South Korea recently.
The former All-England champion, having trained with the Badminton Korea Association (BKA) for 10 days from January 31 to February 9, is ready to be fielded any time his services are needed by the national squad.
“(And) of course, I am prepared anytime the team needs me (for BATC). The pressure is there, and it’s something that we have to deal with,” he said at the Setia City Convention Centre in Shah Alam here today.
Zii Jia also thinks that Malaysia, as the defending champions and drawn in Group B with Brunei, Kazakhstan and Taiwan at BATC 2024, hold an advantage.
Malaysia should get off to a flying start, having avoided the likes of 2022 Thomas Cup champions India, the formidable South Korea and top seeds China in the group stage, but there is a fresh draw for the last eight.
However, he expects fierce competition at the 2024 BATC because the tournament, besides being attended by some of the world’s biggest names, also offers a slot to the Thomas Cup in May, with the four best teams automatically qualifying for the prestigious tournament.
Among the big names are number seven H. S. Prannoy of India and China’s Weng Hong Yang (world number 16), as well as the world number one men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty of India.
“Our main target will be Taiwan… so I am looking forward to a tough match. But I think it will be a stiff mission for us, but all of us will give our best,” said world number 10 Zii Jia.
The 25-year-old shuttler said that, like the Thomas Cup qualification of two years ago, not all countries are sending their best teams to the BATC this time, but it will still be a great challenge to defend the men’s title.
Regarding his recent training stint in South Korea, Zii Jia said it was something he had discussed with his coach Wong Tat Meng since last December.
“The environment there (South Korea) is fantastic, and, of course, I have to thank the BKA as well for letting me train in their facilities with all their players. I can say they have one of the best facilities and best training centres in the world.”