Zii Jia told not to dwell on possible clash with Axelsen


(Photo by Alexander NEMENOV/ AFP)

PETALING JAYA: One match at a time.

National men’s singles head coach Hendrawan wants world No. 8 Lee Zii Jia to not get himself distracted by the prospect of meeting reigning Olympics champion Viktor Axelsen (pic) in the quarter-finals of the Denmark Open, which got under way in Odense yesterday.

Barring any upset, the duo should clear their two opening rounds to set up a mouth-watering rematch of the All-England final in March.

Then, Zii Jia won the epic 74-minute battle 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 to clinch his career’s biggest victory.

He will surely be eager to repeat his win to show that the earlier victory was no fluke.

After all, Axelsen has also emerged as the man to beat at the moment as he has not lost any of the last 17 matches since his defeat to Zii Jia.

“There’s no denying that Axelsen is more stable than anyone else at the moment, and he’s tough to play with,” said Hendrawan.

“I have had a discussion with Zii Jia and I told him not to think too much about his possible match-up with Axelsen.

“Let’s take it step by step first because there will be no easy match anymore. We can see recently that there are more players maturing.

“Our main focus is to prepare for the opening round against Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei tomorrow (today) first. It’s going to be tricky.”

It will be Zii Jia’s first meeting with the fast-improving Tzu-wei, who’s now the world No. 10. His notable result this year was reaching the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals in Bangkok in January.

A win will see him face either Hans Kristian-Vittinghus or compatriot Liew Daren in the last 16.

World No. 35 Daren can expect a tough encounter with fellow veteran Vittinghus, who had helped his team reach the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup on home soil last week.

Although the 34-year-old Daren is just a year younger than Vittinghus, it’s surprising that this will be only their fourth meeting having last played in the 2012 Superseries Finals. Daren won 17-21, 21-13, 21-14.

World No. 19 Vittinghus has shown that he can still compete at the highest level after finishing runner-up to Axelsen at the Thailand Open 2 in January and was also a semi-finalist at the European Championship.

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