Malaysia Masters: Zii Jia Sets Up Title Clash Against Axelsen

25/05/2024 10:51 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 (Bernama) -- Former All England champion Lee Zii Jia stayed on course for his maiden title on home soil after advancing to the Malaysia Masters men's singles final for the first time tonight.

Spurred on by the vociferous home fans at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, the world number 10, who suffered from cramps when defeating Dane Anders Antonsen yesterday, powered to a 21-15, 21-17 win over Hong Kong's Angus Ng Ka Long tonight in a repeat of last weekend’s Thailand Open title showdown. 

Thailand Open champion Zii Jia, however, faces an uphill task in tomorrow's final as he will come up against Denmark’s world number one Viktor Axelsen, who is gunning for his first title this year to end a near six-month title drought after last winning the 2023 World Tour Finals last December.

“To be honest, this is not my first back-to-back finals, but this final means a lot to me because it's on home ground and I have never made (any World Tour event) final in Malaysia. 

“I don’t think that far (as to how) it's going be tomorrow. I just want to calm down, have a good rest, a good meal, refresh and be revitalised for tomorrow. As long as there are no serious injuries, I will give it my best shot,” said Zii Jia. 

Meanwhile, in the earlier semi-final, Axelsen ousted Lu Guang Zu of China 21-16, 21-13 in 38 minutes for his sixth win in as many matches against the world number 19 as he bids to become the first European to win the Malaysia Masters title twice after his 2018 triumph. 

Reigning Olympic champion Axelsen has promised an epic showdown tomorrow, saying both shuttlers have their own reasons for wanting to win the Super 500 crown.

“If you don't think that you are the one who wants it the most when you go on court, you will have a really tough time in individual sports. So, of course, we both want it. That's the only answer I can give you.  

“Come tomorrow, it's mano a mano (fight directly) and we'll see who wins. I am just really happy about being in the final and I don't feel any pressure whatsoever, just enjoying it on court,” he said. 

The Dane has the better head-to-head record against Zii Jia, having won six of their nine encounters, including when they last faced off in the Thomas Cup group stage last month.

Zii Jia’s best-ever achievement in the Malaysia Masters was a semi-final appearance in 2020 when he went down to eventual champion Kento Momota of Japan. Zii Jia also reached the quarter-finals in 2019.

However, his campaign ended early in the other editions, having been eliminated in the first round in 2017 and the second round in 2018 and 2023. He did not take part in 2022 while the tournament was called off in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The last Malaysian men’s singles player to win the title was Datuk Lee Chong Wei in 2016 while Tan Kiang Meng-Lai Pei Jing clinched the mixed doubles title a year later.

Apart from Zii Jia, Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie have also advanced to tomorrow's mixed doubles final against Indonesians Rinov Rivaldy-Pitha Haningtyas Mentari.