Axelsen credits Zii Jia and Malaysian fans for bringing out the best in him [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: Shortly after winning the Malaysia Masters for his first title of the year on Sunday, world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen paid tribute to both Lee Zii Jia and the Malaysian fans for bringing the best in him.

Axelsen clearly enjoyed the atmosphere at the packed Axiata Arena that he claimed he had to take on the "entire Malaysia" in his hard-fought 21-6, 20-22, 21-13 win against Zii Jia.

Malaysia has proven to be Axelsen's favourite hunting ground as Sunday's victory was his fourth from the five finals he entered here.

Besides winning also the 2018 Malaysia Masters, Axelsen was also a two-time Malaysia Open winner in 2022 and 2023.

The only time he came in runner-up was to Kento Momota at the 2020 Malaysia Masters.

"It was a great game for the spectators today. Obviously, after the first game, it was a little bit quiet, but Zii Jia came out firing on all cylinders in the second game, and I was too predictable," said Axelsen, the reigning Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion.

"All credit to him though, he put me under a lot of pressure together with thousands of fans there were here. I couldn't even hear myself and definitely couldn't hear what my coach was saying either.

"So it was a great experience for me to play in here. It's not easy to play here with the entire Malaysia against you.

"It was an amazing experience. I envy Zii Jia and all the Malaysian players a little bit because it's definitely a unique support.

"I want to thank all Malaysian fans for coming out and watching the game. Great atmosphere, and I'm super happy about my title here."

Axelsen believes being in fresher condition gave him the edge over Zii Jia.

As Zii Jia was playing in his ninth match in 13 days, Axelsen arrived in Kuala Lumpur to play in his first tournament since the Thomas Cup in Chengdu.

"Zii Jia has of course played a lot of badminton over the last two weeks," said Axelsen.

"Physically he might be a little bit tired, but again, I still think he played a great game overall.

"It was not before in the second part of the third game that I felt that he maybe took the foot off the pedal a little bit because of fatigue maybe, but also credit to myself, I think I played a great game."

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