A finely balanced performance by Lee Zii Jia saw him through to the semifinals of the YONEX All England 2020 – the farthest he has gone in a major event so far.
In Lee’s 21-12 21-18 takedown of former champion Chen Long in the quarterfinals today, two elements shone through – new-found patience and consistency.
The score wasn’t reflective of how tight the match actually was, particularly in the second game with Chen always hovering close behind Lee. All through, the Malaysian had bided his time on every rally, pushing the pace only when he sensed his opportunity. When his rasping smashes were returned, he was unruffled – the waiting game commenced again, until the next injection of pace.
In many ways, Lee had dished out to Chen Long what the Olympic champion usually does to others – he showed the heart for a fight, was nimble in defence, and picked the moments when he had to rev up the pace. At the net, he barely made an error today.
Despite the magnitude of his achievement, Lee was understated in his analysis of the match.
“It is my first All England and I’m very happy to make the semifinals,” said the Malaysian. “He is a former world champion and reigning Olympic champion. This is our fourth meeting and he won the last match, so this was a revenge victory for me. I’m quite happy and looking forward to the semifinals.”
Today’s result was the quickest of the four matches they’ve played. All three of their previous matches had gone the distance. Lee won their first encounter, at the Indonesia Open last year, but Chen won both their subsequent clashes.
Lee acknowledged that it was his consistency and patience that had helped him stay the course against the third seed.
“I think for this event, from the first round I played very patiently. I made fewer mistakes. This is good improvement for me. Last time, my weakness was in making many unforced errors. I think I improved on that, so I’m happy.
“The atmosphere is very good, the audience is very friendly and they have supported me. There were some Malaysian fans also. Hopefully I will make them proud.”