Bitter pill to swallow

Tough decision: Lee Zii Jia was forced to withdraw from his quarter-final match against Anders Antonsen. — Badminton Photo

PETALING JAYA: The tears that Lee Zii Jia shed at the mixed zone after his quarter-final exit from the World Championships said it all.

The 23-year-old was supposed to attend the post match conference after retiring 21-12, 8-21, 1-11 against Anders Antonsen due to a huge blister on his right foot but he simply couldn’t hold back his emotions and was excused from the obligatory players’ interview.

The scene was captured and shared on social media.

It was not hard to understand why Zii Jia was devastated as he had let slip what could have been a glorious chance to win his first medal at the world meet or even being crowned as the world champion.

The world meet has become a crazy open race following the withdrawals of defending champion Kento Momota of Japan, Indonesian Thomas Cup-winning duo Anthony Ginting and Jonatan Christie, two-time champion Chen Long, Shi Yuqi of China and the shocking early defeats of Olympics champion and world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, who lost to Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew in the opening round, and Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan.

Even his coach Hendrawan had admitted that Zii Jia could have been one of the first-time world champions.

On Friday, Zii Jia appeared to be on his way to the last four at one stage when he outplayed third seed Antonsen 21-12 in the opening game.

However, he eventually succumbed to a nasty blister on his right foot sustained during his quarter-final battle with another Dane Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, losing 8-21 in the second game and retired at the rubber-game interval with Antonsen being 11-1 ahead.

When asked on how far Zii Jia could have gone, Hendrawan said: “After a long journey with a total of nine tournaments in the span of three months, all players were feeling drained.

“It’s not physical lethargy but it was more of mental exhaustion. We know that the one with the the strongest mental strength will prevail.

“This world championships will crown a new champion as we had expected.”

Antonsen takes on Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew in the semi-finals while it will be an-all India affair in the other with K. Srikanth taking on Lakshya Sen.

“For Zii Jia, it’s a great learning experience,” said Hendrawan.

“I hope when the tournaments are spaced out in an orderly manner next year, Zii Jia can eventually win a major tournament.”

Even Antonsen showed sympathy for Zii Jia.

“I wish Lee a speedy recovery. He’s an amazingly talented player who has become stronger over the years,” said Antonsen, the silver medallist at the 2019 Basel edition. “He has many world championships to look forward to, that’s for sure.”

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