(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Axelsen ran out of steam as another Lee rises
Date: 3/21/2021 5:22 PM
Published by : Yash Sharma
In a repeat of the last year’s All England men’s singles semifinal, Lee Zii Jia turned the tables on the defending champion this time.

The 22-year-old Malaysian had a slump in form earlier this year, but compensated for all those shortcomings by winning the biggest title of his career. On the other hand, Viktor Axelsen was all nerves in his seventh consecutive final, when it mattered the most. 

The high-quality match started on an equal footing. In the second half of the first game, Lee kept a marginal lead but soon, the drama unfolded. With both players trying their best to win the opener, there were lots of game points until it got to 29-29. The Malaysian claimed it as Axelsen pushed the shuttle long of the backline. 

- It was a crazy match, really close. The first game was pretty crucial: I used a lot of energy and probably should have won it if I wanted to take the title today, Axelsen observed. 

- I think both of us played very well until the third game. Axelsen lost a bit of focus and at that moment, I had the advantage. At 30-29, it was already a very tough game. Coming into the second game, I had to focus on every single point. I couldn't afford to lose focus on the points. This is what I told myself: 'Focus on every point', Lee explained. 

The Dane got a better start in the second and led 14-11. However, the nerves showed up and he repeatedly played into the net. Following an incredible 27-shot rally, Lee let out a roar of premature celebration as he led 18-14. The Malaysian could have closed it out in straight games, but he got too eager and made uncharacteristic errors. This allowed Axelsen to force the decider. 

An underwhelming end
Trailing 11-5 in the final game, the former world champion could not close down the gap by playing on the better end. Additionally, a focused and composed Lee refused to give an inch. With the Dane withering away, Lee emerged victorious in the momentous battle after 74 minutes: 30-29, 20-22, 21-9. 

- I think Lee Zii Jia played well in the crucial points today, and I was a little too sloppy at times. Unfortunately, I've spent quite a bit of energy this week playing long matches, and it took its toll a little bit. I think Lee was the rightful winner today, so I want to congratulate him, Axelsen concluded. 

- 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, Lee was obviously overwhelmed with emotions. 

Being unable to win a consecutive title, Axelsen missed a golden chance of joining the likes of Chong Wei, Lin Dan, and Paul-Erik Høyer Larsen. Meanwhile, Lee Chong Wei’s namesake finally comes of age as he beat the world’s top two men’s singles players Kento Momota and Axelsen to win the All England crown. 

A nervous Chochuwong comes up short
Playing in her first Super 1000 tournament, the situation got the better of the 23-year-old Pornpawee Chochuwong. There was no indication of the highest level she had played at throughout the tournament. 

As a result, the Japanese ace Nozomi Okuhara didn’t break a sweat to win her second All England title. She won 21-12, 21-16. 

- Today was a really tough match for me. She fought more and was more patient, while I made some mistakes. She controlled the game, Chochuwong admitted. 

- I'm very happy to be the champion again! I wanted to play the same in this final as in my other matches. It was her first time in the final of the All England; I think she felt a little bit of pressure, Okuhara expressed her feelings. 

Nevertheless, the Thai athlete took away some positives from an otherwise successful campaign.

- I think the whole experience has been good for me. I hope to be back and I'll never give up. 

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