Viktor Axelsen finally cracked the riddle that has troubled him for three years now; the Dane packed off Chen Long to enter the title round of the Dubai World Superseries Finals.
Four of Axelsen’s seven losses have come this year; three of those were tight affairs that showed that the young Dane was getting ever closer to beating the best player in the world. It all fell together today, as Axelsen controlled the game from start to finish.
Playing his measured style, waiting for the right opportunity to strike, and hurting Chen with his sharp smashes and razor-sharp netplay, Axelsen breezed past him in the opening game. The second was closer, until Axelsen broke away by trapping Chen deep in his backhand corner and whipping a crosscourt winner to go up 18-17. Another impeccable net shot gave him his first match point and he immediately converted.
“This is the biggest win of my career,” declared Axelsen.
“In my previous matches, it was the same story: I always did well to begin with but he got a lead in the second game, but today I kept pulling through. I’ve exceeded my expectations. My preparation wasn’t so good, I just went out to enjoy myself and things worked out.”
Denmark’s hopes for Jan O Jorgensen to face Axelsen in the final were dashed when he was beaten by Japan’s Kento Momota 21-19 21-18.
Okuhara, Yihan in Women’s Singles final
Nozomi Okuhara chalked her fourth straight win of the event, repeating her decimation of World champion Carolina Marin. The Japanese, revelling in the slow conditions that aided her retrieving game, wore down the Spaniard with her defensive brilliance, until even the indefatigable Marin ran out of answers. Okuhara will face China’s Wang Yihan, who completed a 12-0 career record over Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon with a 21-12 21-12 demolition job.
“When I heard I was to play Marin in the semi-finals, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was a little scared. I didn’t want to play her. But then I thought I would show my game. I felt everybody was supporting me yesterday, so I was a bit positive when I went into the match. It was very difficult today. If I had lost, yesterday’s victory would have been meaningless.”
Luo twins outplay Matsutomo/Takahashi
Denmark had a good start to the day with the Women’s Doubles duo of Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl cutting apart the challenge of Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.
Pedersen and Juhl were sharp and on top of their game today. The Danes, erratic in their league match against the Indonesians, scarcely did a thing wrong, with Juhl smashing accurately and powerfully, while Pedersen held her own at the net. The 21-17 21-12 result took them 46 minutes.
Luo Ying and Luo Yu (China) outplayed defending champions Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi in a humdinger of a contest that featured long spells of attrition with several rallies going past the 50-stroke mark. The Japanese had the edge at the break in the second game, 11-8, after a titanic rally, and held a lead at 15-11 and 19-17. A couple of errors from Matsutomo helped the Luos inch closer, and their consistency in the closing moments helped them come away winners at 21-19 21-19 in an hour and 26 minutes.
Lee/Yoo beaten by Ahsan/Setiawan
Defending champions Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong ran into an effervescent display by Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, who recaptured their form of the BWF World Championships. The Indonesians, after a lean spell since August, finally turned the corner with a blistering display, leaving the so far unbeaten Lee and Yoo trailing.
Ahsan and Setiawan dished out their best fare – mastery of the quick exchanges and setting up their openings at the net. Lee and Yoo were constantly under fire but the Koreans, to their credit, escaped five match points in the second to force a decider. However, the Indonesians maintained their intensity in the third as well, emerging winners at 21-17 22-24 21-15.
Their opponents in the final will be China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei, who staged an escape act against Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. The Danes, unbeaten in the tournament, had five match points in the third but were unable to capitalise.
Ko/Kim to face Adcocks
The Mixed Doubles final will feature Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na against England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock, who made their first World Superseries final since the Yonex French Open in October last year. The Adcocks worked their way past Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto 21-17 22-20. They take on Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na, who beat Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah 21-15 20-22 21-12.
“This year we’ve reached a lot of quarter-finals and a couple of semi-finals; here everything came together,” said Chris Adcock. “It was a tactical battle today. Neither of us wanted to lift the shuttle; the battle was for the first lift.”