PETALING JAYA: One world champion down, one more to go.
National No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is eyeing the scalp of reigning world champion Kento Momota of Japan after sending the 2017 world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark packing in the second round of the Korean Open in Incheon yesterday.
The 21-year-old Zii Jia took advantage of a weakened Axelsen by pulling off a 21-18,21-16 win in 35 minutes to set up a match against Momota for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Axelsen made a return to competitive badminton at last week’s China Open after taking almost four months break to recover from his niggling back and leg injuries. In China, the former world No. 1 was beaten in the first round by Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan.
It was Zii Jia’s second win over a world champion this year. He beat two-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion Chen Long of China in the second round of the Indonesian Open in July.
Zii Jia was pleased with the momentous win over Axelsen – especially after losing 12-21,20-22 to the Dane at the Malaysian Masters in January.
“Axelsen is also one of my idols growing up. I loved to watch him play and in some ways, I have adopted some of the elements of his game into mine, ” said Zii Jia.
“So to beat him here really means a lot to me. He was not at his best today as he has not recovered fully yet but I still made sure I gave my best against him.
“I hope he will be able to come stronger after this.”
Zii Jia knows it will take an herculean effort to beat Momota, who is currently a cut above the rest in the men’s singles field. The Malaysian has lost to the two-time world champion in all their three previous meetings in straight games.
“I’ve never beaten him, not even close. It’ll be tough but I will go all out, as I know that he is not impossible to beat.”
Badminton Association of Malaysia coaching director Wong Choong Hann gave due credit to Zii Jia.
“Zii jia executed his game well. At some crucial points, Zii Jia managed to keep the pressure on Viktor and scored the points, ” said Choong Hann.
“This is not the best we have seen from Axelsen but it’s still a good win for Zii Jia as there were some moments of brilliance from Axelsen that could have turned the game around but Zii Jia did not cave in under pressure.
“The odds are against Zii Jia in the match-up against Momota, so all he can do is to go on the court with confidence and fight it out for every single point. It will be a good chance for us to gauge the standard of Zii Jia against Momota.”
It was however, the end of the challenge for independent shuttler Liew Daren after losing 17-21,21-11,12-21 to India’s P. Kashyap in the second round yesterday. He had upstaged two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China on Wednesday.
Men’s doubles pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong were outclassed 9-21,20-22 by Indonesia’s world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia.
Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani turned the table on compatriots Chooi Kah Ming-Low Juan Shen 19-21,21-18,21-15 to reach their first quarter-finals in a top tier tournament.
SECOND ROUND RESULTS
Men’s singles: Kento Momota (Jpn) bt Kim Dong-hun (Kor) 21-12,21-9; P. Kashyap (Ind) bt Liew Daren (Mas) 21-17,11-21,21-12; Wang Tzu-wei (Tpe) bt Anders Antonsen (Den) 21-15,21-6; Lee Zii Jia (Mas) bt Viktor Axelsen (Den) 21-18,21-16; Jonatan Christie (Ina) bt Khosit Phetpradab (Tha) 21-8,22-20; Jan O Jorgensen (Den) bt Anthony Ginting (Ina) 17-21,21-16,21-13; Chou Tien-chen (Tpe) bt Kenta Nishimoto (Jpn) 21-10,16-21,21-14;
Men’s doubles: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukmuljo (Ina) bt Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (Mas) 21-9,22-20; Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin bt Chooi Kah Ming-Low Juan Shen 19-21,21-18,21-15.
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