Lee Zii Jia was in the form of his life when the badminton season came to an abrupt halt, but the world number 10 is looking to regain that form with a bang when the 2021 season restarts with the Asian Tour in Bangkok in January.
To make an impact and stand a chance of winning the three titles on offer, Lee knows he needs to topple the big guns such as Kento Momota and Anthony Ginting.
Among the other top 10 shuttlers, these are the only two whom Lee has yet to beat — he has not beaten Momota in six attempts, and Ginting in two.
This year, he lost to Momota at the Malaysia Masters semi-finals in January, and later to Ginting at the Asia Team Championships a month later.
“I was riding on a good momentum and enjoyed a few breakthrough wins before the pandemic stopped everything. That was unfortunate and untimely. You’ll never know what else I could have achieved if not for the pandemic.
This year, Lee beat the higher ranked Anders Antonsen (3rd), Shi Yuqi (9th), Jonatan Christie (7th) and Chen Long (5th) in the five events he played in, including the All-England where he made the semis.
With the pandemic changing the landscape of the world, the badminton scene could also be destined for a makeover.
While Lee played in several internal tournaments to maintain his fitness and competitive feel, Momota is gearing for his first competitive action when he takes part at the All-Japan national championships in Tokyo later this month.
The Japanese ace, who was out of action for several months after being involved in a car accident in Malaysia, admitted he was nervous of playing the best when the season restarts.
“I’m nervous but I’m really looking forward to playing against the best international players after such a long time. I haven’t played matches recently so it’s difficult to know what’s working and what I need to work on. But thanks to my sponsors, I’ve been able to practice each day without stress,” he told AFP.
The Asian Leg comprises of the Yonex Thailand Open (January 12th-17th), Toyota Thailand Open (January 19th-24th) and the backdated World Tour Finals (January 27th-31st).