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Zii Jia one step away from All England glory

Kuala Lumpur – National top singles ace Lee Zii Jia is one match away from clinching a maiden All England Badminton Championships title after overpowering Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands 21-13, 21-17 in Birmingham, today.

Sixth-seeded Zii Jia was in majestic form as he swept aside the Dutchman in straight games at the Utilita Arena.

The current world number 10 was no match for Caljouw in the first game but the Dutchman was a transformed player in the second as he trailed by just a point — 10-11 — at the interval.

Caljouw pounced on Zii Jia’s hesitancy to take a 16-15 lead but that was the wake-up call the 22-year-old from Alor Setar needed as he regained his composure, fought back and stormed home 21-17.

With this win, Zii Jia has bettered his All England record. Last year, the Malaysian fell short when he lost 21-17, 13-21, 19-21 to eventual winner Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the last four.

Zii Jia will now meet the winner of the all-Danish clash between second seed Viktor and third seed Anders Antonsen in the other semi-final, which will be played later tonight (Sunday morning Malaysian time).

This will be Zii Jia’s best chance to win silverware after enduring a disastrous start so far this year.

He began the year by losing to second seed Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan in the quarter-finals of the Yonex Thailand Open before crashing out in the first round at the hands of India’s Sameer Verman in the Toyota Thailand Open back in January.

Zii Jia’s poor form continued when he lost all his three matches in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals, also held in Bangkok in the same month, before being shown the exit by eighth seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand 18-21, 10-21 in the semi-finals of the 2021 Swiss Open earlier this month.

Earlier, unseeded Japanese pair Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo stunned Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying 21-14, 22-20 to qualify for the mixed doubles final today.

The last time Malaysia tasted a victory in All England was in 2017 when Datuk Lee Chong Wei overpowered Shi Yu Qi of China 21-12, 21-10 in the men’s singles final. — Bernama

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