Zii Jia's form impresses world No. 1 Axelsen

KUALA LUMPUR: A revitalised world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen believes that Lee Zii Jia can only improve now that he is returning to top form.

On Sunday, Axelsen was pushed to the limit by Zii Jia before prevailing in the thrilling Malaysia Masters men's singles final, winning 21-6, 20-22, 21-13 to claim his first title of the season.

It was the reigning Olympic champion's second win against Zii Jia this month, having also beaten him during the Thomas Cup in Chengdu.

Should Zii Jia decide to play in his third successive tournament at the Singapore Open this week, Axelsen could find himself crossing paths with the Malaysian No. 1 once again as early as the quarter-finals.

Having faced Zii Jia on numerous occasions, Axelsen was asked if he thinks Zii Jia is currently playing his best badminton.

He responded: "How far is he from his best? I have no idea. You know, all athletes go up and down in their careers. It depends on where you are playing, how you are playing with shuttles, and everything.

"But I simply don't have an idea. I have too much in my head to think about where other players are at the moment.

"But I think he's playing great. It's awesome to have him back playing this well, and it's great for badminton to have all these great players with different styles of play."

As for Axelsen, he remains adamant that the best is yet to come, even after yesterday's (May 26) victory.

Axelsen said earlier he would be a dangerous player once he returns to top form.

"I'm definitely not in my best physical condition yet. I've been able to do maybe around two weeks of training without too big changes compared to my normal training routine," said Axelsen.

"So I'm slowly getting back. This was a great, great week for me. I'm feeling really good physically.

"It's all looking pretty well at the moment towards the Olympics. But right now, I don't want to think too much ahead."

Now that he's back in the groove, Axelsen wants to maintain his momentum as he gears up to emulate China's Lin Dan as only the second player to defend an Olympic men's singles gold.

Axelsen's acknowledgment of Zii Jia suggests he sees the latter as one of his biggest threats to achieving this ambitious goal.

But for now, Axelsen will turn his attention to conquering the Singapore Open.

The Super 750 tournament is one of the few events on the World Tour he has yet to add to his impressive collection.

He faces a tricky opening hurdle against India's Lakshya Sen.

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