Youngster Lee Zii Jia gave it his all. But in the end, it was a question of being so near but yet so far for the 19-year-oldwhen he slumped to a 18-21, 9-21 loss to Chinese ace Shi Yuqi in the semi-finals of the E-Plus Badminton Asia Team Championships in Alor Setar.

With veteran Lee Chong Wei out, the role as the lead singles player was placed squarely on the Kedah native.

But while he showed plenty of fight in the first set, the second saw him becoming undone against the world No.7 Yuqi in a 38-minute battle.

An overwhelmed Zii Jia, the former world junior bronze medalist, admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done before the Thomas Cup in Bangkok, Thailand from 20-27 May.

“I’m feeling a little tired as I’ve been playing tough opponents for the past few days. Yuqi stepped up the pace in the middle of the first set and it wasn’t easy to follow,” said Zii Jia.

“I’m happy with my performance but at the same time, I’m also a little disappointed as I couldn’t win the point for Malaysia. I have to train a lot more to be better for the Thomas Cup Finals in May.

“I need to learn how to cope with pressure and not to get emotional. The most important thing is to work on my physical strength and fitness. It was clear that I’m not fit enough.

“I feel that was the best lesson that I have picked up here. I’ve gained in terms of experience, shot controls and pressure.”

Zii Jia’s next appearance will be at the Swiss Open in Basel, Switzerland at the end of the month.- BY ALVINA OH

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