Most of Malaysian shuttlers found themselves knocked out in the opening round of the China Open on Tuesday, but it was men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia who was the most gracious in defeat.
The 21-year-old came within a whisker of upsetting reigning Olympic champion Chen Long for the second time this year before being upstaged 16-21, 21-12, 21-23 in a battle that lasted two hours.
Wong Choon Hann, a former national singles ace and now the Badminton Association of Malaysia's (BAM) coaching director, believes Lee needs to tune his state of mind during crucial points in big matches.
"He has improved his performance through his own abilities, be it in terms of skill set or understanding of the game. His body is growing and his muscles are stronger.
"But at the same time he needs mental endurance, which is still lacking compared to top tier players.
"You need to have the mindset to last the pace. He still needs to gain much more. At crucial points, it is not about how strong your muscle is it’s about having that iron tight belief.
"He will earn this through some key matches," said Wong.
Lee has made steady progress and now finds himself number 13 in the world.
It will take some time before he wins a Super 1000 event, because in order to do so, shuttlers like Chen Long needs to be vanquished at crucial points like 21 all-in rubber game.
There was some joy in the men’s singles as Liew Daren overcame Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin 13-21, 21-19, 21-15.
He will now go on to face Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama, a man he downed at last year’s World Championships quarter-finals.
Men’s doubles shuttlers Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong meanwhile had no issues disposing of Dutch duo Jelle Maas-Robin Tabeling 21-6, 21-9.
They will now go on to face Danish duo Mathias Boe-Mads Conrad-Petersen in the second round, the pair whom they comprehensively beat to win the Chinese Taipei Open title last week.