All England: Lee Breaches the Fort

Kento Momota’s comeback to international badminton after a long layoff stalled in the quarterfinals of the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships 2021 as the 2019 champion fell to an inspired Lee Zii Jia.

The Malaysian, who had never breached Momota’s fort in six previous matches, finally stitched together the right moves to dismantle the two-time world champion, 21-16 21-19.

Lee’s opponent in the last four will be Mark Caljouw, who made his first HSBC World Tour Super 1000 semifinal, beating Lakshya Sen in three games.

Momota did show the rust of his layoff, but Lee Zii Jia never allowed him to get into the game. He kept his attacking momentum throughout, troubling Momota with both  consistency and precision, and his willingness to last the course in the rallies. The Japanese had his moments, particularly in the second game when he was able to keep pegging away with his rallying skills, but the Malaysian never let that bog him down. Lee’s attacks were precise and judicious; the openings quickly put away.

Momota made one last stand by erasing a 16-19 deficit in the second to 19-all; and here a piece of luck went Lee’s way as the shuttle tumbled off the tape into Momota’s court. The opportunity was swiftly taken. The win saw him into his second straight All England semifinals.

“It’s a very big moment for me in my career,” said the Malaysian. “This is my first win against Momota. We’ve met six times and I’ve never won and I’m very happy about it.

“My game plan was to fight everything and I know Momota is very tough; you have focus on every shot and every moment. You can quickly lose focus, when that happens, it can make a big gap between me and him so I think I tried to focus on every point.

“For me, firstly the All England Open is a big deal already. It’s a very big competition for all players. All the badminton players dream about it. I’m very happy I have made it twice to the semifinal, so for me I want to enjoy this moment.”

Momota admitted he couldn’t find his best game.

“I did not play well and I was rushing through the points and that’s why I couldn’t play my game. I did not have a chance to think through my play and I struggled. I could feel the tension throughout this tournament.”

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