The Hylo Open 2021 ended unexpectedly for many, most of all, for Lee Zii Jia (李梓嘉) himself. As he faced off against Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew (骆建佑) in the finals, many anticipated an all-out battle. Unfortunately, Zii Jia had to retire due to a waist injury, costing him his chance at the title.
Malaysians had been looking forward to the fight as this would be the second time Zii Jia faced down Loh after the French Open last month (October). However, 7th November only ended in worry. Thankfully, the national badminton player later reported he was doing better and apologised for having to withdraw from the match.
The finals for the Hylo Open took place in Germany on Sunday (7th November). After being shut down in the first round of the French Open, many thought this would be Zii Jia’s ‘revenge match’. Initially, it seemed as though Zii Jia would pull through. He won the first game with 21-19. However, he fell behind in the second game with 13-21. By the third game, 12-17, it was clear he was flagging. He finally chose to retire in the final match citing a waist injury. Zii Jia placed second in the Hylo Open 2021.
This isn’t the only time the duo have fought on the court. As it turns out, their history stretches back to when they were kids and Loh was still living in Malaysia! Apparently, Loh and Zii Jia faced each other in a national competition when they represented Penang and Kedah respectively. Loh also won the match then but later moved to Singapore and continued to hone his skills there. They are still on good terms; Loh wished Zii Jia a speedy recovery even as he gracefully accepted the championship title.
Zii Jia didn’t leave his fans hanging after the match. On 8th November, he announced his wellbeing in a post on Instagram. “Don’t worry, I’m still doing well,” he said, adding cheekily, “I can still take a load of luggage.” The world No. 8 also took the opportunity to apologise to his fans.
“But (considering) the upcoming tournaments and my body’s condition, I (had) no choice (but) to retire from the match,” he wrote. “I always believe I can do better, but I feel sorry that it (ended) up this way.” Zii Jia admitted that this only proved how vital team support was in helping him maintain his performance. “Thanks (for) all the blessings and support from everyone. I hope I can continue the journey with my best effort,” he stated.
Former national player Dato Lee Chong Wei (李宗伟) also stepped in to explain why participating in several tournaments consecutively wasn’t easy. “I usually don’t participate in more than three events in a row,” he shared during an interview with local media. “It’s difficult even to participate in two events in a row, but I enjoy the challenge.”
Dato Lee stressed that players made it look easy, but in such a busy season, they needed a proper competition plan. “(However), as long as you have the right mentality, you can definitely deal with it,” he added. For Zii Jia’s case, Dato Lee states that this is normal. “Zii Jia is in the early stages of trying to stabilise (himself) at a higher level,” he stated. “This takes time, and the ups and downs are normal.”
Knowing our national player, Zii Jia probably gave his all during that final match. We may be disappointed with the outcome, but no one blames him for prioritising his health over the game.
Hopefully, we’ll see him back on the court again soon; this time better, stronger, and ready to challenge another tournament. Get well soon, Zii Jia!