KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — An in-form world number one Viktor Axelsen has described Malaysia’s top shuttler Lee Zii Jia as his toughest rival in recent times.

The Danish Olympic champion said this was clear after he had to slog for one hour and 10 minutes to beat Zii Jia 19-21, 21-11, 23-21 in the Indonesia Open semi-finals at Istora Senayan Stadium in Jakarta last Saturday.

Axelsen, 28, who is here preparing for the upcoming Malaysia Open and Master tournaments, said Zii Jia is a capable player who gives his best on court.

“Zii Jia was the one who pushed me the most in Indonesia. He is a great player and everybody knows that. He is also a great guy off the court.

“It is great to have many competitive opponents. There are many good men’s singles players but obviously Zii Jia is a great opponent,” he told reporters at Akademi Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara today.

The 2017 world champion said he is open to training with any players, including Zii Jia, ahead of the 2022 Malaysia Open from June 28-July 3 and Malaysia Masters from July 5-10, both at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil.

Axelsen said he was focusing on recovering in time for the two Malaysian tournaments, after having been physically and mentally drained playing in the back-to-back Indonesia Master and Open championships.

“I was talking to Lakshya Sen of India about practising together here because we know each other really well. Then I checked with (Badminton Association of Malaysia singles coaching director) Wong Choong Hann if I can train here. He said I was more than welcome to be here. So I am really thankful to be here.

“The most important thing for me is to get myself ready for the Malaysia Open. I am not trying to keep any secrets at all; even in training camp in Dubai, I did training with all players,” he said.

Axelsen is the man to beat at the Malaysia Open and Master, after winning the recent Indonesia Open and Master. — Bernama