Zii Jia resumes his great rivalry with Axelsen [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: All eyes will be on the highly anticipated clash between Lee Zii Jia and reigning Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen when Malaysia face Denmark in their final Group D tie of the Thomas Cup on Tuesday.

Apart from their brief eight-point encounter at the Sudirman Cup last year, the last full match between the two heavyweights was in 2022 during the semi-finals of the Indonesia Open in Jakarta, where Axelsen defeated Zii Jia in a three-game thriller.

With the Paris Olympics looming, top players are aiming to peak at the right time.

Fully aware of the significance of his showdown with Axelsen, Zii Jia opted to play in Malaysia's second group tie against Algeria today instead of resting.

After thumping Algeria's Adel Hamek 21-8, 21-6 in the first singles at the Hi Tech Zone Sports Centre in Chengdu, the former All England champion told the Badminton World Federation: "Today's match was an easy one, but my main focus is preparing for the anticipated clash against Denmark.

"It's highly likely that I will face Viktor, and it's been almost two years since our last encounter. Today's match was all about preparing for the big one."

During last year's Sudirman Cup in Suzhou, Axelsen was forced to retire early in the match due to injury when the score was tied at 4-4.

However, the closely contested semi-final in Indonesia a year earlier was akin to a major championship final. Axelsen emerged victorious with a tight 19-21, 21-11, 23-21 win.

When asked if he hopes to replicate the same level of performance from two years ago, the Kedah-born shuttler said: "I'm definitely aiming for that level of form, but as you all know, I've faced challenges over the past two years.

"I can't predict the outcome, but I'll certainly give my best on the day."

Both Denmark and Malaysia have secured their spots in the quarter-finals of the Thomas Cup.

The tie on Tuesday will determine who top Group D, before a fresh draw is conducted for the knockout stage.

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