PETALING JAYA: All-England champion Lee Zii Jia has been touted as one of the biggest threats to world No. 1 Kento Momota’s Olympic gold medal quest on his home soil this July.
Japan men’s singles coach Yousuke Nakanishi named the Malaysian world No. 8 alongside Denmark duo, Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen, the world No. 2 and No. 3, Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting (No. 5) and China’s Shi Yuqi (No. 11) as worthy challengers who will stand in Momota’s way as he bids to become the Olympic champion on his debut.
Nakanishi acknowledged that Zii Jia has improved by leaps and bounds after watching the latter stun his protege in the quarter-finals of the All-England last month.
Zii Jia’s 21-16,21-19 victory over Momota was his first in seven meetings against the two-time world champion.
It’s worth noting that Momota had never lost even a game in all his previous six victories.
Although Momota was playing in only his first international tournament after a 14-month hiatus due to a road accident and the Covid-19 pandemic, but Nakanishi took nothing away from Zii Jia’s imperious performance.
“His performance was good, ” said Nakinishi in an interview with Yahoo! Japan recently.
“Of all the players on the World Tour, his smash is probably the most powerful and that’s a cause for concern (for Momota).
“In the past, he used to make a lot of mistakes and mess up his smashes, but not this time. He’s more calculated with his shots and made it difficult for Momota to respond.
“He has improved in terms of technique and offensive play, and that will make him an unpleasant opponwent to face at the Tokyo Olympics.”