Malaysia had been waiting almost a full 10 months for a first titlist above the Super 300 level on the HSBC BWF World Tour this season. Now they have one before a shuttle is even hit in the final.
Ng Tze Yong and Lee Zii Jia both made the Super 500 CLASH OF CLANS Arctic Open 2023 powered by YONEX men’s singles final in contrasting circumstances, with Ng first defeating Kanta Tsuneyama in straight games (21-12 21-16) for the third time to keep his unbeaten run against the Japanese going. Lee took to court two hours later, looking steady under pressure to get through the opening game against good mate Anders Antonsen 21-17. A left hamstring strain then unfortunately forced the Dane to retire while Lee was leading 13-8.
That the match ended abruptly would matter little to Malaysian fans for they have never seen a final involving two of their own in SuperSeries tournaments in any of the five categories.
Lee understood the enormity of the achievement.
“It means a lot. I don’t know how many years Malaysians have been waiting for such a moment, especially at this level,” said the 25-year-old. “Me and Tze Yong have played really well this tournament, all the best to both of us tomorrow.”
Adding extra meaning to the special day was Ng making his first ever World Tour final and Lee ending his year-long wait to play in one.
“I can’t describe my feelings, I didn’t expect to get this far. I want to give my best tomorrow,” said Ng, two years Lee’s junior.
For Lee, this marks a fresh start after suffering a massive form slump following his Denmark Open runner-up finish last year.
“I struggled a lot at the start of the year and now finally I’m into my first final of the season. I’m quite happy but there’s one more match, one more mission to complete so I must stay focused.”
Whatever the outcome at the Energia Arena come Sunday, a win for Malaysian badminton, in more than one way, is certain.