Long, anxious wait

The Covid-19 outbreak may be wreaking havoc with the preparations and schedules, but national men’s singles head coach Hendrawan wants Lee Zii Jia  to remain focused on his Olympics preparations.

The 21-year-old was scheduled to compete in the German Open this week but the organisers were forced to cancel at the eleventh hour after being advised to do so by the city’s health office.

The All-England, slated for next week, is also in major doubt.

This comes after Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock admitted earlier this week that its government was considering all options, including banning large gatherings of people at sporting events.

Zii Jia has been training hard over the last three weeks with his sights firmly set on performing well in Europe, but the uncertainties over the tournaments have affected his morale.

“The Covid-19 has disrupted everything we have planned earlier. Zii Jia was pumped up for the two coming tournaments in Europe, but he might end up not playing in both, ” said Hendrawan.

“It’s tough for him to stay motivated. But I told him he has to stay focused no matter what happens. He must continue to prepare as if the All-England is on. We will know by the end of this week. Let’s hope for the best.”

Realising the importance of Zii Jia staying competitive, Hendrawan has entered him in two more tournaments – Singapore Open (April 7-12) and the Asian Championships (April 21-26) – which were not part of the initial plan.

In the event the All-England is cancelled, Zii Jia would have gone five weeks without playing a single tournament.

Originally, Zii Jia was supposed to play in the Malaysian Open (March 31-April 5) as his only tournament in April.

“Earlier, we wanted to reduce his number of tournaments so he could spend more time in training, ” explained Hendrawan.

“But now, we have no choice but to send him to Singapore and the Asian Championships to make up for the absence of earlier cancelled tournaments.

“There are also the Swiss Open and Indian Open but we didn’t enter him. There’s no way to put him in now as the entry deadline has already passed. He needs tournaments to keep himself competitive.”

The Covid-19 could also impact Hendrawan’s other charges, including Cheam June Wei and Leong Jun Hao, who are bound for several lower-tier tournaments in Europe.

June Wei is scheduled to play in the Swiss Open (March 17-22) and Orleans Masters in France (March 24-29), while Jun Hao is entered for the Finnish Open (April 2-5) and Dutch International (April 8-11).

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