Nearly but not quite there


Stay strong, buddy: Lee Zii Jia is consoled by Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen after their final match. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia is determined to stay positive after seeing his winning streak come to an end.

Zii Jia’s hopes of capturing his second title in two weeks ended when he went down fighting 6-21, 22-20, 13-21 to Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the final of the Malaysian Masters at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

After losing the first game tamely, the world No. 10 came out firing to narrowly win the second game but struggled with fatigue in the decider and ended up losing the match.

It was understandable as Zii Jia was playing his 10th match in two weeks after winning the Thailand Open last week.

He was also dragged to three games for the third time in this tournament and fifth time overall in the past two weeks.

Zii Jia hopes to continue his recent progress until the Paris Olympics in July.

“It’s been a good experience for me these two weeks. I have learned a lot during this time,” said Zii Jia.

“I hope I can bring everything positive from here to my next tournaments leading up to the Olympics.

“To be honest, I’m not satisfied as I think I could have done better today (yesterday).

“Physically, I need to improve. I played a lot of matches these past two weeks and met many different types of players.

“I’m still trying to find the best version of myself and stabilise my performances,” added Zii Jia.

Zii Jia is now expected to move up to No. 8 in the world rankings and has enhanced his chances of getting a seeding for the Olympics.

The 26-year-old will now assess his condition first before making a decision on competing in the Singapore Open which starts today.

Meanwhile, it was joy for Axelsen, who ended his wait for an individual title this year.

It was the reigning Olympic champion’s first crown since capturing the World Tour Finals title last December.

Axelsen was pleased with his timely return to form ahead of the Paris showpiece.

“I’m very happy to win this title. It was a great week for me and I’m getting back to my best physically,” said Axelsen.

“It looks good for me at the moment heading into the Olympics but I want to recover first and take it from there.”

FINAL RESULTS

Men’s singles: Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Lee Zii Jia (Mas) 21-6, 20-22, 21-13.

Men’s doubles: Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (Den) bt Jin Yong-Na Sung-seung (Kor) 21-18, 21-14.

Women’s singles: Wang Zhiyi (Chn) bt P. V. Sindhu (Ind) 16-21, 21-5, 21-16.

Women’s doubles: Rin Iwanaga-Kie Nakanishi (Jpn) bt Lee Yu-lim-Shin Seung-chan (Kor) 17-21, 21-19, 21-18.

Mixed doubles: Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (Mas) bt Rinov Rivaldy-Pitha Haningtyas (Ina) 21-18, 21-19.

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