Momota Kento, Lee Zii Jia crashes out in the 1st round of the 2022 Japan Open

Lee Zii Jia’s mental struggle

Lee, widely regarded as the one player on the BWF Tour who has a shot of outslugging Axelsen, went down 22-20, 23-21 at the hands of Kidambi Srikanth.

Like Momota, Lee’s first round exit follows a disappointing performance in Tokyo. The Malaysian was upset by Zhao Junpeng In the round of 16 after skipping the Commonwealth Games to focus on the world championships.

In both games against Kidambi, Lee had a game point but allowed his Indian opponent to turn the tables on him and win.

Lee believes the reason for his recent slide is mental. He just doesn’t know how to snap it out.

“It’s a disappointing performance for me,” Lee said. “I think the focus for me wasn’t really good while I was on the court, and this is the most important thing. I have to do something after going back to Malaysia.

“It might be a very big problem for me, my concentration on the court. Something is bothering me and I don’t know what it is. This is something I need to find out.

“I couldn’t say it’s because of the loss in the world championships. This is one of the process I have to go through on the journey. I have to go through it. It’s a process.

“It’s mostly mental, about my focus. It’s something I have to discuss with my team, and figure something out to solve it.”

Some of the big names however did get the job done despite the short turnaround from Tokyo, like two-time defending women’s world champion Yamaguchi Akane, Carolina Marin and the mixed doubles world champion, Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong.

Yamaguchi dismissed Saina Nehwal of India 21-9, 21-17 while Marin beat Zhang Yi Man 21-19, 21-11 despite being down by as much as five points in the first game.

Marin – who lost to Yamaguchi in the quarter-finals in Tokyo – said the one-day turnaround has not been easy

“I am on my way to having a good performance. It was really important to get a feeling as a whole,” said the Spaniard, who is seeded fifth here.

“Today when I started I was on the far side and should have controlled the shuttle much better. In the second game, it was easier to play on the slow side and you could control the opponent, the shuttle much better. Happy that I could win my first match though.

“What I said to my body was keep going, keep going. I need to keep fighting until the game is over. And this is what I did. I want to think game by game so looking forward to playing again tomorrow.”

Tokyo 2020 women’s gold medallist and last week’s runner-up Chen Yu Fei progressed. She won over Lin Hojmark Kjaersfeldt 21-12, 21-15.

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