Lee Zii Jia has dropped outside the top 10 in the world rankings. -NSTP FILE/ASWADI ALIAS
Lee Zii Jia has dropped outside the top 10 in the world rankings. -NSTP FILE/ASWADI ALIAS

KUALA LUMPUR: Lee Zii Jia has dropped outside the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in three months, a development that raises concerns with the Paris Olympics just four months away.

The 26-year-old had maintained his position at No. 10 since Jan 16 but failed to sustain it in the latest rankings update on Tuesday, primarily due to his lack of notable results since the beginning of the year. He is now ranked world No. 11.

Zii Jia lost his No. 10 ranking to newly crowned Spain Masters champion, Loh Kean Yew of Singapore.

Zii Jia's notable achievements include reaching three World Tour quarter-finals at the India Open, Indonesia Masters, and All England.

However, these modest results weren't sufficient to make further strides in the rankings.

This is undeniably a concern Zii Jia must address in the next three months if he hopes to secure a strong seeding at the Paris Olympics in August.

Even though the Olympics may expand the seeded player count to 16, it's still crucial for Zii Jia to strive for a place among the top eight.

This could help him steer clear of facing tough contenders like Denmark's Viktor Axelsen or China's Shi Yu Qi as early as the round of 16, provided he advances past the group stage.

The busy World Tour schedule in Europe over the past month had provided Zii Jia the platform to break into the top eight, but he did not capitalise on them.

Zii Jia's struggles not only led to Kean Yew overtaking him but also allowed Thai world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn to strengthen his hold on the No. 8 spot, backed by his impressive runner-up finish at the French Open.

Zii Jia has until the end of June to turn things around, as the Paris Olympics seeding will be announced on July 5th.

During this period, Zii Jia will compete in at least five more events, starting with the Asia Championships in Ningbo, China, next week.

Meanwhile, Ng Tze Yong, who has been sidelined with back injury since February, continues to hold the position as the second-highest-ranked Malaysian at No. 18.

Following his decision to withdraw from the Asia Championships, effectively ending his hopes for Olympic qualification, Tze Yong faces the risk of dropping out of the top 20 for the first time since December last year.

Despite Leong Jun Hao's quarter-final outing at the Spain Masters last year, his ranking remained unchanged at No. 37 and the third-highest-ranked Malaysian.