Up-and-coming men's singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is determined to use the 2019 Perodua Malaysia Masters as a platform for himself and other junior players to prove that they are ready to step into the shoes of their seniors.
With the withdrawal of a number of senior players from the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) for pastures new, the 20-year-old looked at the situation as a golden opportunity for the back-up players to show they could be counted upon for major assignments.
When met after a recent SS Purple League match, the 2018 Taiwanese Open winner said: "It’s true that if we look at the BAM now, it’s filled with young players.
"I hope that all the youngsters, not me alone but all the juniors, do not see this as a burden but as their responsibility to prove that they are up to the task."
The Alor Setar-born shuttler added that Lee Chong Wei, who is back in training, will provide a timely boost for the national badminton squad.
"I feel that his return is a boost for our men’s singles team and hopefully Chong Wei's presence can help us face the challenges ahead," he said.
With regards to his target for the Malaysia Masters, taking place from January 15 to 20, he said: "My target, of course, is to go as far as possible this time. I will be on court from as early as the qualifying rounds.
"It will not be easy as the world's top 40 players are competing here this time around, but nonetheless, I want to reach the semi-finals or final because I am playing in front of my fans.
"I don’t want to think too much about it to avoid being under too much pressure."
Lee also wanted to use this tournament as a stepping stone to collect as many points as possible and become one of the world's top 32 players before April to enable him to play in the BWF World Tour 750 or 1000 and gain exposure playing against the world's best.
According to the Malaysia Masters' qualifying round schedule, Lee opens his campaign against China's Zhou Zeqi before taking on either Sitthikom Thammasin of Thailand or another player from China, Zhao Junpeng.
In his first outing in 2019, he was halted in the quarter-finals of the Thailand Masters, losing to France's Brice Leverdez in straight sets, 11-21, 19-21.