Zii Jia fired up to continue great form in tough final against Axelsen

Quick reflexes: Lee Zii Jia returning a shot to Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long during the semi-finals. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is fired up to continue his great form after smashing into his first ever final in the Malaysian Masters.

Yesterday, the world No. 10 independent player was in confident mood as he disposed off Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long 21-15, 21-17 to book his spot in the final at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil.

It was a victory to savour for Zii Jia, who had previously struggled in the home tourney.

The 26-year-old’s best achievement before this was a semi-final finish in the 2020 edition.

Zii Jia now has an opportunity to capture back-to-back titles after winning the Thailand Open last week.

Standing in his way to the title is Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen.

Zii Jia was thrilled to make it to his maiden final in front of the passionate home fans.

“I have reached back-to-back finals before but this time it’s more meaningful as I have never reached the final in my home tournament before this,” said Zii Jia.

“As long as I have no serious injuries, I am fired up to win. I didn’t expect to win the second game today (yesterday) as I was behind by a few points.

“I told myself to try to win the next few points and it kept getting better and better, and I’m very happy that I managed to close out the match in two games.

“I now want to calm myself down, rest and refresh for the next match.

“I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow (today),” added a pumped-up Zii Jia.

Zii Jia is the first Malaysian men’s singles player to reach the final at home since Datuk Lee Chong Wei triumphed in the 2018 Malaysian Open.

Chong Wei also captured the home Masters in 2016 and no Malaysian has won the title since.Zii Jia will face his toughest test in the tournament so far against Axelsen, who was also in top form when he swept aside China’s Lu Guangzu 21-6, 21-13.

The Malaysian lost to the Dane in the group stage of the Thomas Cup Finals in Chengdu earlier this month. Overall, Zii Jia has only beaten Axelsen three times in their past nine meetings in international competitions.

The former’s last win over the latter in a full match came in the final of the 2021 All-England.

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