Birmingham, England, March 21, 2021: Malaysia’s rising badminton star Lee Zii Jia joined the elite list of winners of the Yonex All England Open by defeating defending champion Viktor Axelsen in a nail-biting final on Sunday.
The 22-year-old World No. 10 and tournament sixth seed beat the second-seeded Dane 30-29, 20-22, 21-9 to record the biggest victory of his career in his first major final.
The Kedah-born Lee, who has been training full time since he was 13 years old and first joined the national team in 2010, improved his career singles record to 161 wins and 77 defeats in 238 outings.
“I’m happy, excited, sad; everything has come into one moment so it’s hard to describe the feeling right now,” said Lee, who earned praise from retired badminton great Lee Chong Wei, a four-time All England champion, back home in Malaysia.
“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 first game at 30-29 was a very tough game and, coming into the second game, I had to focus on every single point. I couldn’t afford to lose focus, otherwise my opponent would have taken advantage. This is what I told myself: ‘focus on every point’.”
In the women’s event, Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara reclaimed the singles crown that she’d last won in 2016, beating Thai challenger Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-12, 21-16.
“Five years ago I won here and there was no pressure; this time I’m in the top five in women’s singles so that has changed things. But my overall play is now at a higher level so I am very happy,” said Okuhara, the 26-year-old world No. 4 from Nagano.