Lee Zii Jia ASK (Chinese: 李梓嘉; pinyin: Lǐ Zǐjiā; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lí Chú-ka, born 29 March 1998) is a Malaysian badminton player.[4] Known for his smash, especially his backhand smash, physical agility, speed, and reflexes, he is regarded as one of the best players in the men's singles category in the current generation.[5] He was the men's singles gold medalist at the 2019 SEA Games and won his first BWF Super 1000 title at the 2021 All England Open.[6] Lee is the 2022 men's singles Asian champion, winning the title at the 2022 Badminton Asia Championships.

Lee Zii Jia
李梓嘉
Personal information
CountryMalaysia
Born (1998-03-29) 29 March 1998 (age 26)
Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia[1]
ResidenceBukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia[2]
Height1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)[2]
Years active2016–present
HandednessRight[1]
CoachWong Tat Meng[3]
Men's singles
Career record234 wins, 125 losses
Highest ranking2 (25 October 2022)
Current ranking7 (18 June 2024)
Medal record
Men's badminton
Representing  Malaysia
Sudirman Cup
Bronze medal – third place 2021 Vantaa Mixed team
Bronze medal – third place 2023 Suzhou Mixed team
Thomas Cup
Bronze medal – third place 2024 Chengdu Men's team
Asian Championships
Gold medal – first place 2022 Manila Men's singles
Asia Team Championships
Gold medal – first place 2022 Selangor Men's team
Silver medal – second place 2020 Manila Men's team
Silver medal – second place 2024 Selangor Men's team
Bronze medal – third place 2018 Alor Setar Men's team
SEA Games
Gold medal – first place 2019 Philippines Men's singles
Silver medal – second place 2017 Kuala Lumpur Men's team
Silver medal – second place 2019 Philippines Men's team
World Junior Championships
Silver medal – second place 2016 Bilbao Mixed team
Bronze medal – third place 2016 Bilbao Boys' singles
BWF profile

Early life

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Lee Zii Jia was born in Alor Setar, Kedah to Malaysian Chinese Lee Chee Hin and Leow Siet Peng, both teachers and former basketball internationals.[7] He was first introduced to badminton by his parents at the age of 6. In his earlier years, he studied at Keat Hwa H Primary School in Alor Setar, Kedah. Due to his results in the under 12 competition, he was soon drafted into the Bukit Jalil Sports School.[8]

Career

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2015

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In 2015, he became the junior champion in the Perak and Selangor Badminton Open. These standout performances and wins in the international circuit earned him a place in the Badminton Association of Malaysia.[9]

2016

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In November 2016, Lee won a bronze medal in the World Junior Championships after losing to Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo in the semifinals. In the same month, he advanced to the final of India International Series but was defeated by Lakshya Sen.[9]

2017

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In February 2017, Lee reached the semifinals of the Thailand Masters, where he lost to Kantaphon Wangcharoen. In September 2017, he won his first senior title at the Polish International, against Soong Joo Ven in the final. In November 2017, Lee reached the semifinals of the Bitburger Open.[10]

2018

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In October 2018, Lee reached the final of the Chinese Taipei Open by defeating the World No. 4 men's singles player, Chou Tien-chen in the semifinals. He defeated Riichi Takeshita in the final to win his first BWF World Tour title and second international title overall.[11][12] In doing so, he became the second Malaysian other than Lee Chong Wei to win a BWF top flight men's singles title since 2013.[citation needed] Lee then reached the final of the Korea Masters but lost to Son Wan-ho.[13]

2019

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Lee started the 2019 season by competing in the Thailand Masters. He lost in the quarter-finals to Brice Leverdez of France in straight games. In the next tournaments, he also finished in the quarter-finals in Malaysia Masters,[14] Indonesia Masters, and German Open.[15] He later lost in the early stage of Swiss, Malaysia, and Singapore Open's.[16][17] He admitted that he had struggled to cope with financial difficulties, lack of progress and unfairness that affected his performance.[16]

In August, Lee finally managed to make it into the semi-finals in the Thailand Open, where he lost to Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan. This was nonetheless an improvement to his being a quarter finalist in New Zealand and Indonesia Open's.[15][18] He qualified to compete in World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, but lost to the World No. 1 men's singles player, and the eventual World Champion, Kento Momota of Japan in the quarter-finals.[19] In November, he was forced to retire in the second round of the China Open, and decided to withdraw as well from the next tournament in Hong Kong, due suffering from food poisoning and fever.[20][21] Lee reached world No. 11 in the BWF World ranking on 12 November. In December, he won the men's singles gold medal at the SEA Games,[22] and also helped the national men's team win the silver medal.[23]

2020: Break into top 10 world ranking

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Lee opened the season by participating in Southeast Asian tours in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand Masters, with his best result being a semi-finalist in Malaysia, where he lost to the world number 1 Kento Momota in straight games.[24] In February, he was part of the Malaysia men's team, who won the silver medal at the Asia Team Championships,[25] which he was the national team captain.[26] He won 4 out of 5 matches in the Asia Team Championships, losing the final to Anthony Sinisuka Ginting.[27]

Later in March, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, the German Open was cancelled. Lee's next tournament was the All England Open, which was also his debut at the tournament because his ranking was previously too low to qualify.[28] He won against Jonatan Christie, who had won in four previous matches.[29] He continued this win streak against Lu Guangzu and the then-Olympic champion Chen Long.[30] In the semi-finals, he lost to Viktor Axelsen. The match lasted for 73 minutes.[31] Further, Lee's performance at the All England Open raised his world ranking to no. 10 on 17 March 2020.[32]

2021: All England Open title, Olympic debut

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In March, Lee won his first Super 1000 tournament at the All England Open, defeating the defending champion Viktor Axelsen by a score of 30–29, 20–22, 21–9.[33] In July 2021, in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Lee took part in the men's singles and won against Artem Pochtarov with a score of 21–5 and 21–11. In the subsequent match against Brice Leverdez, he won with a score of 21–17 and 21–5. Lee was eliminated in the round of 16, where he was defeated by Chen Long with a score of 21–8, 19–21, and 5–21.[34] On 7 November 2021, Lee reached the final of Hylo Open, however Lee had to retire due to the injuries he sustained while playing against Singapore's Loh Kean Yew with a score of 21–19, 13–21, 12–17.[35]

Lee ended the year at the 2021 World Championships in Huelva, where he retired from his quarterfinal match against eventual bronze medalist Anders Antonsen due to foot blisters.[citation needed]

2022: Subsequent ban, Asian champion

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In January 2022, there were speculation that Lee intended to leave the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), citing unhappiness with the association's demands and wanting more freedom as a player.[36] He eventually resigned on 19 January.[37] In response, Lee was banned for two years from participating in any international tournaments that required BAM's approval as well as any Badminton World Federation (BWF)–sanctioned tournaments.[38] With fellow players and the general public expressing dissatisfaction on BAM's decision, Lee appealed against the ban on 24 January 2022.[39] The ban was lifted after Lee and BAM met on 25 January 2022, with the terms yet to be revealed.[40]

In May, Lee won his first title of the year, the 2022 Badminton Asia Championships, defeating Indonesia's Jonatan Christie 21–17, 23–21 in straight sets.[41] Lee became the sixth Malaysian men's singles player to win the Asian Championships title. On 22 May 2022, Lee won his first BWF World Tour Super 500 title at the 2022 Thailand Open, defeating China's Li Shifeng with a rubber set score of 17–21, 21–11, 23–21 in 70 minutes.[42]

In June, Lee participated in 3 events: the Indonesia Masters, the Indonesia Open and the Malaysia Open, his home event. At the Indonesia Masters, Lee, the 5th seed, lost to the 4th seeded Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the quarter-finals in 3 games, 21–18, 15–21, 16–21.[43] A week later, Lee lost to Viktor Axelsen, the World No 1 at the Indonesia Open semi-finals, with a score of 21–19, 11–21, 21–23 in 70 minutes.[44] In late June, Lee took part in the Malaysia Open as the 5th seed. He surprisingly lost to Indonesia's Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the Round of 16 in 3 games, 19–21, 21–19, 16–21 in an hour and six minutes.[45]

Claiming injury, he decided to skip the Commonwealth Games and focus on the upcoming World Championships which would be held in August.[46] As the fifth seed in World Championships, he lost to China's shuttler Zhao Junpeng in the third round in three games, with a match score of 19–21, 21–11, 19–21. The match lasted for an hour and five minutes.[47] A week later, Lee lost to Srikanth Kidambi, the Former World No 1 at the first round of Japan Open, with a score of 20–22, 21–23 in 38 minutes.[48]

In October 2022, Lee defeated former World Champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore, with a score of 21–18, 21–15 in 40 minutes [49] and reached the Denmark Open final before losing to Shi Yuqi from China, with a score of 18–21, 21–16, 12–21 in 64 minutes.[50] A few days later, Lee as 3rd seed in French Open, was surprised with another defeat at the first round, with a score of 18–21, 19–21 to the same opponent, Shesar Hiren Rhustavito from Indonesia that defeated him back in Malaysia Open earlier in June.[51]

Australia Open was Lee's last hope of securing a final spot in the World Tour Finals. However, things did not go his way as one of his hands suffered a minor injury during the third game. He lost to Lu Guangzu from China in 70 minutes with a scoreline of 22–20, 15–21, 16–21, thus ending Lee's hopes to enter the World Tour Finals as Lu claimed the final spot.[52]

In November 2022, Lee decided to part ways with his coach Indra Wijaya, citing that he seeks to try 'something new' by foregoing a coach.[53]

2023: Slump, second Sudirman bronze, road to resurgence

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Lee Zii Jia and Ng Tze Yong at the 2023 President's Cup

Lee opened the 2023 season on his home ground, the Malaysia Open, but was defeated in the first round by the Japanese new rising player Kodai Naraoka.[54] The following week, he reached the second round of the India Open, but was defeated by Chinese player Li Shifeng.[55] He competed in the Indonesia Masters but lost in the second round to Hong Kong player Ng Ka Long.[56]

Lee was called up to captain the Malaysian squad for the 2023 Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships. In the round robin stage, he won against Bharath Lateesh of the United Arab Emirates and lost against Prannoy H. S. of India. He won against Lei Lanxi of China in the knockout stage.

On 9 March, Lee was featured on digital billboard in Times Square, New York as part of badminton brand, Victor's 55th anniversary. Apart from Lee, other international badminton players such as Tai Tzu-ying, Anders Antonsen, Apriyani Rahayu, Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti, Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, were also on display. This makes Lee the first Malaysian badminton player to be featured on a Times Square billboard.[57]

He competed in the German Open but lost in the second round to Chinese Taipei player Lee Chia-hao.[58]

On 26 April, Lee competed in the 2023 Badminton Asia Championships. He lost to Ng Ka Long in the first round with a score of 19–21, 16–21 in straight sets in 39 minutes and failed to defend his Asian Championships title.[59]

In May, Lee represented Malaysia in the 2023 Sudirman Cup. He gain a 5 win streak against Ricky Tang, Srikanth Kidambi, Chou Tien-chen, Viktor Axelsen who retired in the quarterfinals, and Jeon Hyeok-jin. In the semifinals, Lee won against Korea in the men's single, but the Malaysia team lost to Korea with a 1–3 score and ended the tournament with a bronze medal. On May 23, Lee announced on social media that he has enlisted Wong Tat Meng, previously the singles' head coach in Hong Kong, as his new coach.[60]

At home event 2023 Malaysia Masters, Lee defeated Lu Guangzu of China in straight games in the first round but was defeated by Lin Chun-yi of Chinese Taipei in rubber games in the second round.[61][62]

In June, Lee competed in the 2023 Singapore Open. He lost in the first round to Chinese player Weng Hongyang with a score of 20–22, 21–16, 19–21 in 64 minutes. Lee also competed in the 2023 Indonesia Open. He again lost in the first round to Indian player Lakshya Sen with a score of 17–21, 13–21 in straight games in only 33 minutes. In response to his string of early exits in 2023 and dropping out of the top 10, he stated in a BWF interview that he considered taking a break from badminton tournaments.[63][64][65]

Lee competed at the 2023 Korea Open in July, where he lost again to Ng Ka Long in the first round.[66]

In October, Lee joined Malaysia's squad at the 2022 Asian Games. He lost against Jeon Hyeok-jin at the men's team event,[67] in which Malaysia conceded a 1–3 defeat against Korea. Lee fared better at the individual events, where he ended his four-match losing streak against Ng Ka Long and upset world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the second round. His journey ended in the quarter-finals against the eventual bronze medalist, Prannoy H. S..[68]

After 17 months from his last title at the 2022 Thailand Open in May, Lee finally managed to overcome early exits in the 2023 BWF World Tour season and won his first title of the year at the 2023 Arctic Open, defeating fellow Malaysian Ng Tze Yong 21–14, 21–15 in the final.[69] He then entered his second consecutive final at the Denmark Open the following week. He was defeated by Weng Hongyang in straight sets, settling for second-best two years in a row.[70]

2024: Winning more than a title

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In the home event Malaysia Open, Lee suffered from yet another first round defeat after losing to Lu Guangzu of China with a score of 21–16, 19–21, 15–21.[71]

Lee reached the quarter-finals of the India Open where he was defeated by Kodai Naraoka of Japan with a score of 21–13, 9–21, 16–21.[72]

Lee again reached the quarter-finals of the Indonesia Masters where he retired against Brian Yang of Canada due to food poisoning.[73]

In another first round defeat, Lee lost to Magnus Johannesen of Denmark with a score of 15–21, 19–21 in the French Open.[74]

In the 2024 All England Open, Lee as a former champion in 2021 did not regain the title after he only reached the quarter-finals where he narrowly lost to Lakshya Sen of India with a score of 22–20, 16–21, 19–21.[75]

In the 2024 Swiss Open, Lee as top seed of the tournament crashed out in the second round to Srikanth Kidambi 16–21,15-21 after a foot injury.[76]

At the 2024 Badminton Asia Championships, Lee was defeated by Jonatan Christie in the quarter-finals 21–11, 21–6.[77]

Lee was crowned as champion at the 2024 Thailand Open after beating Ng Ka Long in the final 21–11, 21–10.[78][79]

At the 2024 Malaysia Masters, Lee went into his second final in a row but lost to top seed of the tournament Viktor Axelsen 6-21, 22–20, 13-21 due to a foot injury he sustained during the quarter-final against Anders Antonsen.[80][81]

Lee conceded a walkover in the first round of the 2024 Singapore Open to Anthony Sinisuka Ginting from an injury he sustained from the 2024 Malaysia Masters.[82]

In the 2024 Indonesia Open, Lee was eliminated in the quarter-finals after losing to Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand with a score of 16–21, 17–21.[83]

Lee proved 2024 to be his breakthrough year after he broke his record of winning only a title in a year by taking the second one in the 2024 Australia Open, defeating Kodai Naraoka of Japan in rubber set of a score of 21–19, 11–21 and 21–18 in final.[84]

Awards and recognition

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Awards

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Year Award Category Result
2024 The BrandLaureate Awards ICON Leadership Award Won[85]

Order

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Achievements

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Asian Championships

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Men's singles

Year Venue Opponent Score Result Ref
2022 Muntinlupa Sports Complex, Metro Manila, Philippines   Jonatan Christie 21–17, 23–21   Gold [41]

SEA Games

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Men's singles

Year Venue Opponent Score Result Ref
2019 Muntinlupa Sports Complex, Metro Manila, Philippines   Loh Kean Yew 21–18, 21–18   Gold [22]

BWF World Junior Championships

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Boys' singles

Year Venue Opponent Score Result
2016 Bilbao Arena, Bilbao, Spain   Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo 19–21, 18–21   Bronze

BWF World Tour (6 titles, 5 runners-up)

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The BWF World Tour, which was announced on 19 March 2017 and implemented in 2018,[87] is a series of elite badminton tournaments sanctioned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF). The BWF World Tour is divided into levels of World Tour Finals, Super 1000, Super 750, Super 500, Super 300, and the BWF Tour Super 100.[88]

Men's singles

Year Tournament Level Opponent Score Result Ref
2018 Chinese Taipei Open Super 300   Riichi Takeshita 21–17, 16–21, 21–11   Winner [11]
2018 Korea Masters Super 300   Son Wan-ho 16–21, 11–21   Runner-up [13]
2021 All England Open Super 1000   Viktor Axelsen 30–29, 20–22, 21–9   Winner [33]
2021 Hylo Open Super 500   Loh Kean Yew 21–19, 13–21, 12–17r   Runner-up [35]
2022 Thailand Open Super 500   Li Shifeng 17–21, 21–11, 23–21   Winner [42]
2022 Denmark Open Super 750   Shi Yuqi 18–21, 21–16, 12–21   Runner-up [50]
2023 Arctic Open Super 500   Ng Tze Yong 21–14, 21–15   Winner [69]
2023 Denmark Open Super 750   Weng Hongyang 12–21, 6–21   Runner-up [70]
2024 Thailand Open Super 500   Ng Ka Long 21–11, 21–10   Winner [78]
2024 Malaysia Masters Super 500   Viktor Axelsen 6–21, 22–20, 13–21   Runner-up
2024 Australian Open Super 500   Kodai Naraoka 21–19, 11–21, 21–18   Winner

BWF International Challenge/Series (1 title, 1 runner-up)

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Men's singles

Year Tournament Opponent Score Result
2016 India International Series   Lakshya Sen 13–11, 3–11, 6–11, 6–11   Runner-up
2017 Polish International   Soong Joo Ven 21–17, 21–16   Winner
  BWF International Challenge tournament
  BWF International Series tournament

Performance timeline

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Key
W F SF QF #R RR Q# A G S B NH N/A DNQ
(W) won; (F) finalist; (SF) semi-finalist; (QF) quarter-finalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (G) gold, (S) silver or (B) bronze medal; (NH) not held; (N/A) not applicable; (DNQ) did not qualify.
To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated at the conclusion of a tournament or when the player's participation has ended.

National team

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  • Junior level
Team events 2014 2015 2016
Asian Junior Championships QF QF QF
World Junior Championships 6th 5th S
  • Senior level
Team events 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Ref
SEA Games S NH S NH A NH A NH [23]
Asia Team Championships NH B NH S NH G NH S [27]
Asian Games NH 1R NH 1R NH
Commonwealth Games NH A NH A NH
Thomas Cup NH QF NH QF NH QF NH B
Sudirman Cup QF NH QF NH B NH B NH

Individual competitions

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  • Junior level
Events 2014 2015 2016
Asian Junior Championships 2R 3R QF
World Junior Championships 1R 1R B
  • Senior level
Events 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Ref
SEA Games 1R NH G NH A NH A NH [22]
Asian Championships A NH G 1R [41]
Asian Games NH 2R NH QF NH
Commonwealth Games NH A NH A NH
World Championships DNQ QF NH QF 3R 3R [19][47]
Olympic Games NH 2R NH [34]
Tournament SS / GP BWF World Tour Best Ref
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Malaysia Open A 1R NH 2R 1R 1R 2R ('22) [17][45][54]
India Open A 1R A NH A 2R QF QF ('23) [55]
Indonesia Masters NH A QF 1R 1R QF 2R QF QF ('19, '22, '24) [43][56]
Thailand Masters SF A QF A NH A A SF ('17)
German Open A QF NH SF 2R A SF' ('22) [58]
French Open A 1R NH 1R 1R 2R 1R 2R ('23) [51]
All England Open A SF W SF SF QF W ('21) [31][33]
Swiss Open A 1R 1R NH SF A SF 2R SF ('21, '23)
Thailand Open A 2R SF QF NH W A W W ('22, '24) [42][78]
1R
Malaysia Masters 1R 2R QF SF NH A 2R F F ('24) [14][24]
Singapore Open A 1R 2R NH A 1R w/d 2R ('19) [63]
Indonesia Open A QF NH 1R SF 1R QF SF ('22) [44][64]
Australian Open A 1R NH 2R SF W W ('24) [52]
Chinese Taipei Open SF W 2R NH A A W ('18) [11]
Korea Open A QF NH A 1R QF ('19)
Japan Open A 1R NH 1R 1R 1R ('19, '22, '23) [48]
China Open A 2R NH 1R 2R ('19) [20]
Arctic Open N/A NH W W ('23) [69]
Denmark Open A 1R A QF F F F ('22, '23) [50]
Hylo Open SF A F w/d A F ('21) [10][35]
Japan Masters NH 1R 1R ('23)
Korea Masters A F A NH A F ('18) [13]
China Masters A 1R A NH QF QF ('23)
New Zealand Open 2R A QF NH QF ('19)
BWF Superseries / Tour Finals DNQ RR SF DNQ SF ('21)
Year-end ranking 42 42 14 11 7 2 11
Tournament 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 Best Ref

Record against selected opponents

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Record against Year-end Finals finalists, World Championships semi-finalists, and Olympic quarter-finalists. Accurate as of 16 June 2024.[89]

References

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  2. ^ a b "BWF Lee Zii Jia Profile". BWF-Tournament Software.
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  4. ^ "Lee Zii Jia". Badminton World Federation. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  5. ^ "The Making of a Champion". Smash Racket Pro. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  6. ^ "Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia lifts 2021 All England title after defeating Denmark's Viktor Axelsen". 21 March 2021.
  7. ^ Fabian Peter (27 December 2020). "PMM2020: Zii Jia ready for a 'fresh start' – Choong Hann". Badminton Association of Malaysia. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
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  46. ^ "Recurring injury forced Zii Jia to skip Commonwealth Games, says Ti". The Star. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
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  50. ^ a b c "Zii Jia falls to Yuqi in Denmark Open final". New Straits Times. 24 October 2022. Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  51. ^ a b "Zii Jia suffers first round French Open defeat". The Star. 26 October 2022.
  52. ^ a b "Tze Yong reaches quarters, Zii Jia misses World Tour Finals spot". The Star. 18 November 2022.
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  60. ^ Team LZJ (23 May 2023). "It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Mr. Wong Tat Meng as the new Coaching Director for Team LZJ. Coach Tat Meng brings a wealth of experience from his coaching stints with the Malaysian national team, Indonesia, Scotland, South Korea, and recently Hong Kong. He will begin working with Lee Zii Jia as soon as his relocation process from Hong Kong to Malaysia is sorted out. The immediate task for Coach Tat Meng is to tailor a programme that will help Zii Jia achieve consistent performances, move up the world rankings, and qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Liew Daren, who will stay part of Team LZJ's coaching setup, for steadying the ship in the absence of a senior figure. With that, everybody, please give a warm welcome to Coach Tat Meng" – via Instagram.
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