KUALA LUMPUR: Denmark's Anders Antonsen is ready to deal a second blow to Malaysia in as many days at the World Championships when he faces Lee Zii Jia in a much-anticipated last-16 clash today.
Yesterday, in front of his home fans at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, world No. 12 Antonsen prevented an all-Malaysian duel by defeating Ng Tze Yong 24-22, 21-16.
"Incredibly awesome. It was a great match, and he's a really tough opponent. Since it's the first time I faced him, I'm really happy that I won," Antonsen told TV 2 Danmark.
With Zii Jia continuing to showcase his explosive form, as demonstrated by his 21-11, 21-16 victory over Canada's Brian Yang in a second-round clash, Antonsen eagerly anticipates a fierce contest with Zii Jia — whom he has forged a close friendship with.
Zii Jia has been a guest on Antonsen's podcast on many occasions. Moreover, during the Malaysia Open in January, Antonsen publicly supported Zii Jia in an interview when the latter was experiencing a challenging phase.
However, when they face off, both will need to momentarily set aside their camaraderie in their pursuit of their first world title.
Antonsen will rely on the thunderous cheers from the stands to subdue Zii Jia.
"It was awesome. But it can get even better," Antonsen added, referring to the support from the home fans at the venue.
"Let's see tomorrow (Thursday), another really good Malaysian awaits, Lee Zii Jia, who can play absolutely wonderfully. So, hopefully, it will be a great Thursday evening."
It has been nearly two years since the duo last faced off. Coincidentally, their previous duel was in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Huelva in November 2021.
At that time, Zii Jia had to withdraw when he was trailing 11-1 in the third game due to an injury.
With a 3-1 lead in their head-to-head record, Antonsen believes the battle with his friend will be special.
"We text, talk, and hang out a bit when we have the time. This match will be special," said Antonsen.