Axelsen, Yamaguchi win 2nd badminton world titles
TOKYO (AP) — Viktor Axelsen underlined his red-hot form and confidence when he won his second world badminton championship after beating first-time finalist Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-5, 21-16 on Sunday.
Axelsen ran his winning streak to 37 matches, not having lost since March.
Akane Yamaguchi won her second straight women’s world title after overcoming Olympic champion Chen Yufei 21-12, 10-21, 21-14.
Yamaguchi surprisingly didn’t medal in her home Olympics in Tokyo a year ago but has rebounded with consecutive world crowns, the undisputed No. 1 ranking and tears of joy on her home court.
“I’ve won many tournaments but I don’t think I’ve been this emotional,” she said.
Axelsen added to his first world title in 2017 by not dropping a game at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
“I was the favorite and lot of pressure was on me, but I managed to perform and I’m really proud about it,” Axelsen said.
The Dane sprinted from the start of the final, reaching 7-1. Kunlavut closed to 7-4 but Axelsen won the next nine points.
He stiffened a little in the second game, which went back and forth to 11-11, then Axelsen read Kunlavut’s game plan and pulled away, winning on his fifth match point.
Victory redeemed Axelsen after he fell in the first round of the worlds last December, just months after winning the Tokyo Olympics gold medal.
Kunlavut, a three-time world junior champion, was the first Thai man to reach the final. En route, he dropped only one game in beating defending champ Loh Kean Yew in the quarterfinals. But Kunlavut had never beaten Axelsen in four previous matches.
“It’s so difficult to play with him but I want to learn so it’s OK (losing),” Kunlavut said.
Chen was also philosophical after her first worlds final. She and Yamaguchi have been playing each other for eight years, but Chen won a set for the first time since 2019.
“She is very fast and I need to catch up,” Chen said.
Yamaguchi separated from Chen in their first game from 11-9, winning seven of the next eight points.
The Japanese star started thinking of the ending in the second game and Chen jumped all over her, but Yamaguchi refocused in the third, took her time, and repaid the Chinese by going out to 8-1 and controlling the rest of the final. She was carried home by the rousing crowd.
“I was getting a little bit emotional because the crowd was very supportive,” Yamaguchi said. “It was a special moment.”
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