Dubai: To the Viktor belong the spoils. It may be just a little premature to presume that the men’s singles crown of the year-ending BWF World Super Series finals will go to Denmark in Viktor Axelsen's satchel at the end of Sunday’s title matches.
But really, the manner in which the lanky 21 year old Dane played in the semi-finals on Saturday, to contemptuously thrust aside reigning two-time world champion and top seed, Chen Long of China, by a 21-12, 21-17 scoreline in a matter of 43 minutes, it was hard to see Japan’s Kento Momota barring Viktor’s way to El Dorado.
Conceded that the stocky left-handed Japanese former junior world champion – who knocked out the other Dane, Jan O. Jorgensen at 21-19, 21-18 in the second semi-final, in exactly the same length of time that the earlier encounter took – had edged out Axelsen in three pulsating games in the last group match on Friday.
However, if Axelsen plays on Sunday with the same verve, concentration and steely resolve that he demonstrated at the Hamdan Sports Complex while knocking out Chen, whom he had never beaten in seven earlier meetings, it will take a very special effort from Momota to take top honours in Sunday’s battle.
Viktor Axelsen returns a shot to World No 1 Chen Long during their men's singles semi-final match in Dubai on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Axelsen used his height brilliantly to beat the equally tall Chen at his own game. Even as his defence was immaculate and unhurried, he dealt with every cleared shuttle with half-smashes that pulled his rival out of position, and put him firmly in the driver’s seat in the rallies.
The Dane set a blistering pace from the very outset, opening out leads of 6-0, 9-2 and 11-3, to pocket the opening game without much ado. Chen threatened his usual comeback in the second stanza, keeping his nose in front by a point or two all the way until 17-15, but Axelsen simply would not be denied. The hunger was very evident as the Dane caught up at 17-all with controlled, attacking play, and never looked back.
On a night when world champions bit the dust, the reigning women’s champion Carolina Marin of Spain was shown the door by Japan’s doughty Nozomi Okuhara, undoubtedly the most improved woman player of 2015. The 21-11, 21-12 scoreline, amazingly, was an accurate indicator of the one-sidedness of the match. Marin simply had no answer to Okuhara’s barrage of accurate returns and occasional surprise attacking stroke.
Okuhara will clash for the women’s title with China’s 2012 world champion Wang Yihan, who was ruthlessly efficient while handing out a 21-12, 21-12 thrashing to Thailand’s 2013 world champion, Ratchanok Intanon. The 36-minute massacre was Yihan’s 12th consecutive victory against the Thai girl, without a defeat.