Lee Zii Jia has became only the second Malaysian man to break into the top five of the badminton world rankings, after clinching the Thailand Open 2022, and has now been tipped for the top by predecessor Lee Chong Wei.
Three-time Olympic silver medallist Chong Wei is by far the nation's most successful player to-date, and shared with local daily The New Straits Times, how this breakthrough will impact 24-year-old Zii Jia.
"What I can remember is how tough the challenge got once I made it into that top bracket" shared the 39-year-old who was world No 1 for 349 weeks during his career.
"Similarly all eyes will now be on Zii Jia. He is the man to beat. This is where the true test starts — consistency and staying injury-free will be the key." - Lee Chong Wei
Chong Wei's wife Wong Mew Choo, herself a former player and Olympian, played a vital role in keeping Zii Jia in the sport when he was contemplating quitting as a teenager. Hear Zii Jia speak about that moment in his career in the video below.
Having the right team is key
Having enjoyed a 199-week streak as world No. 1 from Aug 21, 2008, to June 14, 2012, Chong Wei knows a thing or two about staying at the top of your game.
He advised Zii Jia to "train hard, plan well and avoid injuries," and believes that his former physiotherapist, Sandra Fiedler, who is currently working with the independent player can help play a vital role in this aspect.
"This is where Sandra comes in. I know because I've worked with her for so long. If not for Sandra, I wouldn't be the person people know now," the four-time World Championship medallist shared with local daily The New Straits Times.
The Thailand Open win on Sunday (22 May) was Lee Zii Jia's first World Tour title as an independent player, and saw him move up one spot to a career-high fifth place in the BWF world rankings.
With the right planning and approach to tournaments, Chong Wei believes that his successor too can reach the pinnacle in the world rankings.
"Zii Jia is lucky because he will get to plan his tournaments, and with a solid team by his side, I don't think it's impossible for him to be the best soon." - Lee Chong Wei
Lee's coach, Indra Wijaya, shared that fans can next expect to see Zii Jia back on court at the Indonesia Open 2022 in Jakarta which runs from June 14-19.