National shuttler Lee Zii Jia made Malaysians proud last night, 21 March, after defeating World No 2 player Viktor Axelsen from Denmark in the All England Open Badminton Championships final
Lee won against Axelsen in a nail-biting best-of-three game, defeating his opponent in the first and last game, reported New Straits Times.
He is the sixth Malaysian to have clinched the All England title, four years after Lee Chong Wei's last win in 2017.
Other Malaysian athletes who have won the tournament — which was first held in 1900 — are Wong Peng Soon (1950, 1951, 1952, and 1955), Eddy Choong (1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957), Tan Aik Huang (1966), Hafiz Hashim (2003), and Lee Chong Wei (2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017), reported The Star.
"A star is born," said a commentator following Lee's victory, adding that Malaysia finally has a successor to Lee Chong Wei, who retired in June 2019.
The final scores of the three-game match are 30-29, 20-22, and 21-9 — a gruelling match that lasted 74 minutes
Both badminton players were neck and neck in the first game.
The fierce competition led to the game going past 21 points as neither of them could gain a lead of more than three points.
Lee emerged as the winner when he reached the 30th point ahead of Axelsen. The final score for the first round was 30-29.
However, in the second game, Axelsen shone. Even though he was four points behind Lee towards the end, he made a comeback and defeated the 22-year-old Malaysian with a score of 20-22.
In the last game, Lee dominated the game by pulling five points ahead at the beginning of the round.
The player then widened his lead to 12 points by the end, ultimately defeating Axelsen with a score of 21-9.
Prior to facing Axelsen, Lee also bested World No 1 Kento Momota last Friday, 19 March. He defeated the Japanese player in the quarter-final with scores of 21-16 and 21-19.
The second Lee realised he had won the tournament, he dropped his racket and let out a huge scream while clenching his fists
Lee's victory against Axelsen came after the Malaysian player lost to the Dane in the World Tour Finals just two months ago.
The Star described Lee's defeat in the previous tournament as "the most humiliating defeats of his career". The scores were 15-21 and 4-21, with Axelsen having a lead of a whopping 17 points.
Snatching the All England title from Axelsen can be seen as Lee's sweet revenge.
"I'm happy, excited, sad... everything has come into one moment so it's hard to describe the feeling right now. Of course, I'm happy about it," The Star quoted him as saying following his victory
"I think both of us played very well until the third game when Axelsen lost a bit of focus and that's the moment I had the advantage."
The 10th best badminton player is projected to climb up by two ranks once the world ranking is updated.
While Lee's victory is worth celebrating, it is worth noting that leading Asian badminton nations — such as China, South Korea, and Taiwan — had opted not to participate in the tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions, reported AFP.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin commended Lee following his victory in a Facebook post published at 12.03am today, 22 March.
"Congratulations, Lee Zii Jia. You are a national hero," said the premier.
"Make this success as a push to work harder and become more brilliant in the future. Your career still has a long way to go. Congratulations to the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and the coaching staff as well for this success."
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