PETALING JAYA: Lee Zii Jia has set up a mouth-watering clash against former world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the All-England men's singles final.
On Saturday (March 20), Zii Jia and Axelsen won their semi-final matches in contrasting styles at Arena Birmingham.
The 22-year-old Zii Jia was a bundle of nerves as he took 44 minutes to beat Mark Caljouw of Holland 21-13,21-17. Zii Jia's form was erratic but fortunately, he did enough to fend off the spirited Caljouw to reach his first final.
The Malaysian made it to the semi-finals last year but only to be beaten by Axelsen, who went on to win the title.
The former world No. 1 Dane showed his strong intent to defend the title when he battled for 67 minutes to beat a stubborn Anders Antonsen of Denmark 16-21,21-7,21-17.
National coach Datuk Tey Seu Bock said Zii Jia has a chance to end a four-year title drought if he could reproduce the same form that saw him beating two-time world champion Kento Momota of Japan in the quarter-finals on Friday (March 19).
Malaysia last won at the All-England through Lee Chong Wei in the men's singles at the 2017 edition.
"Zii Jia did not play well but I had expected it. His match against the Dutchman was laced with errors," said Seu Bock.
"He was quite nervous but that was understandable. He was just a step away from the final and struggled to settle down against his lower ranked opponent. Fortunately, he hung on there.
"If he can play like how he did against Momota, there is a chance to upstage Axelsen too.
"Zii Jia is coming out from a poor start to the season. He has surely shown some improvement and we hope he will save his best for the last match here.
"I was with Chong Wei when he won the All-England title in 2011,2013 and 2017 and hopefully, I will get to witness a new champion this time," added Seu Bock.
There was no double joy for Malaysia when Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying lost 14-21,20-22 to Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo of Japan in the mixed doubles semi-finals..
The Malaysians were leading 16-4 in the second game but blew a good chance to force a decider when they allowed the Japanese to pull off an amazing come-from-behind win.
(Matches to start in the order below from 6pm Malaysian time)
Men's doubles: Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda (Jpn) vs Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe (Jpn)
Women's doubles: Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota (Jpn) vs Mayu Matsutomo-Wakana Nagahara (Jpn)
Women's singles: Pornpawee Chochuwong (Tha) vs Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn)
Men's singles: Lee Zii Jia (Mas) vs Viktor AXelsen (Den)
Mixed doubles: Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo (Jpn) vs Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (Jpn)