Former national shuttler Chong Wei Feng believes Lee Zii Jia has taken the Malaysian men’s singles to a new era after making the jump to world number three, behind Anders Antonsen and Viktor Axelsen.

“This is a new era after the last Olympics. It’s a good sign that we are not far behind the other top badminton countries. Zii Jia deserves this, he has been working hard to get to this stage in his career.

“He has good skills, among which is his power play. If he continues to work hard on his gameplay, he can become better. It is possible that he gets to world number two by the end of this year,” Chong told Stadium Astro.

Lee moved in to third on Monday after the latest Badminton World Federation rankings was unveiled, and sits a touching distance from Antonsen in second.

Both shuttlers are only separated by 1122 points on the world rankings.

Lee is set to compete at the upcoming Denmark Open (October 18-23) and French Open (October 25-30), and will train with both Antonsen and Axelsen a week prior to the Danish affair.

With both tournaments classified a Super 750 event, Lee could surpass Antonsen if he does well to reach the semi-finals or final, which offers 7700 and 9350 points respectively.

Chong, who reached a career high rank of 12th, believes the current men’s singles competition is more of an open affair compared to his playing days.

“During my time there were a few top shuttlers, and in terms of standard they were quite far ahead compared to the rest.

“For this new batch of players, I would say their standard is quite equal. Anyone on their good day can beat their opponent, except for maybe Axelsen.

“A player needs to be a good smasher, someone like Zii Jia, to breach Axelsen’s defence. Compared to others, his defence has been difficult to break down.

"But they must continue to push him. It is hard, but not impossible,” added the 35-year-old, who now runs his own academy with around 70-80 students aged from 7 to 14.