SHUTTLER Lee Zii Jia knows exactly the feeling when one is down.
That's why he can understand the struggle of two-time world champion Kento Momota, after the Japanese lost in their opening tie in the final Thomas Cup Group D tie on Wednesday.
Zii Jia was in league of his own as he bulldozed past Momota 21-17, 21-8 in one of his easiest matches against the Japanese superstar.
The 24-year-old Zii Jia both hopes and believes Momota will recover from the defeat and regain his form soon.
"He was not at his best, but this is normal for a player. It was not his day. He may be struggling now but I believe that he will enjoy a comeback soon," said Zii Jia.
"He is a player with a strong character. He was banned for a year (for a trip to a gambling joint) and he had to start all over again yet he became the world No. 1."
Momota's form has taken a hit ever since he was involved in a car accident in Malaysia in 2020. He failed to win a medal at his home Olympics in 2021, despite being touted as one of the favourites.
However, he has not given up. He showed positive signs in the second half of last year but his first-round defeat at the recent Asian Championships to a lowly-ranked Indonesian Chico Aura raised questions about his self-belief.
"I believe this is only a temporary setback. I wish him all the best," said Zii JIa who himself went through a dark phase after a poor showing in early 2021 but bounced back later to win the All-England title.
This year, his decision to turn professional did not go down well with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and he was slapped with a two-year sanction which was later overturned.
Zii Jia went on to win the Asian title and is now ranked world No. 6 but looks headed for a top three slot.
On Malaysia's achievement in reaching the quarter-finals, Zii Jia was pleased.
"The field is quite open. Even defending champions Indonesia were pushed to the distance by South Korea in the group stage. Their top player Anthony Ginting is also going through a rough patch," he said.
"We kept our focus to become group champions and I hope will keep the same hunger for the next few matches," he added.
THOMAS CUP FINALS
Group D: Malaysia bt Japan 3-2 (Lee Zii Jia bt Kento Momota 21-17, 21-8; Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani bt Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi 21-19, 21-16; Liew Daren lost to Kanta Tsuneyama 16-21, 20-22; Aaron Chia-Teo Ee Yi bt Akira Koga-Yuta Watanabe 22-20, 21-17; Leong Jun Hao lost to Kenta Nishimoto 6-21, 21-19, 15-21); England bt United States 4-1.
Group B: Denmark bt China 3-2; France bt Algeria 5-0.
Japan bt Taiwan 3-2 (Kento Momota bt Chou Tien-chen 21-18, 21-13; Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi lost to Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin 14-21, 15-21; Kanta Tsuneyama lost to Wang Tzu-wei 20-22, 17-21; Akira Koga-Yuta Watanabe bt Lu Ching-yao-Yang Po-han 24-22, 21-14; Kenta Nishimoto bt Liao Jhuo-fu 21-13, 21-11.
UBER CUP FINALS
China bt Indonesia 3-0 (Chen Yufei bt Komang Ayu 21-12, 21-11; Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan bt Febriana Dwipuji-Amalia Cahaya 21-19, 21-16; He Bingjiao bt Bilqis Prasista 19-21, 21-18, 21-7).
Japan bt Taiwan 3-0 (Akane Yamaguchi bt Tai Tzu-ying 21-10, 19-21, 21-19; Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota bt Hsu Ya-ching-Lin Wan-ching 19-21, 21-7, 21-14; Nozomi Okuhara bt Wen Chi-hsu 15-21, 21-13, 21-9).
Thailand bt India 3-0 (Ratchanok Intanon bt P.V. Sindhu 18-21, 21-17, 21-12; Jongkolphan-Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai bt Shruti Mishra-Simran Singhi 21-16, 21-13; Pornpawee Chochuwong bt Aakarshi Kashyap 21-16, 21-11).
South Korea bt Denmark 3-0 (An Se-young bt Mia Blichfeldt 18-21, 21-15, 21-18; Lee So-hee-Shin Seung-chan bt Maiken Fruergaard-Sara Thygesen 21-23, 21-16, 21-19; Kim Ga-eun bt Line Christophersen 10-21, 21-9, 21-16).
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