Lee Zii Jia outlasts Loh Kean Yew in thrilling Indonesia Open quarter-final clash

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Malaysian shuttler Lee Zii Jia (left) and his Singaporean rival Loh Kean Yew.
Malaysian shuttler Lee Zii Jia (left) and his Singaporean rival Loh Kean Yew. (PHOTOS: Getty Image)

SINGAPORE — Long-time rivals Loh Kean Yew and Lee Zii Jia put on a thrilling quarter-final tie at the Indonesia Open on Friday (17 June), and it was reigning Asian champion Lee who emerged triumphant as he edged out world champion Loh in three enthralling games.

The world No.5 Malaysian took care of the decisive moments of the match as he outlasted Loh 21-18, 16-21, 22-20 at the Istoran Senayan Stadium in Jakarta to earn a semi-final tie against either Denmark's world No.1 Viktor Axelsen or Indonesia's world No.6 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting.

Over 65 minutes, Lee and Loh were locked in an intense duel of swashbuckling smashes, with the scoreline remained close throughout as the noisy crowd roared both of them on. Loh held match point at 20-19 in the final game, but Lee held his nerve better in the subsequent points to outlast his Singaporean rival.

Loh, who was runner-up in last year's Indonesia Open, open his campaign this year by defeating South Korea's Heo Kwang-hee in the round of 32 on Tuesday, before comfortably beating France's Tomo Junior Popov in the last-16 on Thursday.

Lee also had little trouble advancing through the first two rounds, beating Thailand's Sitthikom Thammasin on Tuesday before recording an easy win over India's Sameer Verma in the round of 16.

The pair of 24-year-olds have been facing against each other since they were youth shuttlers in Malaysia. Loh, who was born in Penang before becoming a Singapore citizen in 2015, had regularly faced Lee in Malaysia's national junior circuit. He most notably defeated Lee in the Under-12 final of the National Junior Grand Prix Finals in 2009.

However, Lee has a better head-to-head professional record against Loh, with three wins in five previous encounters. In their most recent match, Lee easily defeated Loh 21-6, 21-14 in February's Badminton Asia Team Championships. Loh's last win against Lee came at the Hylo Open in Germany last November, when Lee retired midway through the third game.

The Indonesia Open is one of three annual tournaments to be granted Super 1000 level on the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour circuit, and boasts a total prize purse of US$1.2 million (S$1.7 million).

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