A change from the hot weather of Malaysia to the freezing cold of New Delhi? No problem, Victor Axelsen Defeated local favorite Kadambi Srikanth in straight games. Slow shuttle? No problem then; He had adapted by defeating China’s Shi Yuki by the time of the second round. The unfortunate injury to compatriot Rasmus Gemke meant that Axelsen entered the semi-final with a high level of energy – something he acknowledged in his post-match chat with reporters. Result? 21-6, 21-12 win over world No. 4 Jonathan Christie.
It’s not like Viktor Axelsen is unbeatable. But the rarity of his losses makes him feel almost like a machine built to lift every badminton title under the sun.
And that’s why 21-year-old Kunlaut Witedesarn is looking for the biggest victory of his career so far, as he takes on the Danish world No. 1 in the India Open final on Sunday. The victory of either of them will be of its own kind. This is the first India Open edition after the Badminton World Federation (BWF) upgraded it to Super 750.
Axelsen has won the title twice in his career so far, while Wiedersen is yet to defeat the Danish shuttler in five meetings.
The Invincible Victor
Axelsen’s alarming consistency over the past few months has taken top shuttlers around the world by surprise. “He’s very confident. He’s very good mentally,” Jonathan Christie said after losing in straight games to Axelsson in the semifinals on Saturday.
The world number 1 shuttler from Denmark won 8 titles last year, including the world championship and the All England title. He suffered only three defeats all year. Indians twice. Lakshya Sen defeated him at the German Open, while HS Prannoy defeated Axelsen in the BWF World Tour Finals.
At the India Open, despite a fairly straightforward 21-14, 21-19 win over Srikanth in the first round, Axelsen admitted that it was difficult for him. “The shuttles are a bit slow (at the India Open). Coming here from a hot and humid country like Malaysia, where it’s very cold, it’s hard to adapt. I’m just trying to settle down and I’m really happy to be here in straight games. “I won. Srikanth is a tough opponent, so I’m satisfied overall,” Axelsen said after the win.
He dropped just his second game this year during a second-round clash against China’s Shi Yuki but ultimately prevailed in a 63-minute match on Thursday. After dropping the second game, Axelsen made a brilliant comeback, putting on a display of a combination of brilliant pickups and kill shots. And that’s the highlight of Axelsen’s gameplay. The 29-year-old shuttler makes the most of his height and doesn’t overwork his pickup shots, allowing him to return to the center of the court in time for a smash.
In the quarterfinals, Axelsen was up against compatriot Jemke, before an injury to the latter ensured Axelsen’s place in the semifinals. In contrast, Jonathan Christie played a three-game marathon against China’s Chu Tien Chen late Friday, and looked visibly tired early in the semifinals as Axelsen won his second of the year in as many tournaments. Reached the finals.
Huge opportunity for Vitidsarn
The 21-year-old Thailand shuttler has a chance to do what fellow 2018 junior beach mate Kodai Narawaka couldn’t do in Malaysia last week. Won first 750 title by defeating Axelsen.
Witedersen got off to a dominant start with a 21-13, 21-13 victory over Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long before beating Denmark’s Anders Antonsson in a three-game thriller on Thursday. However, his best performance came in the quarters against Loh Keen Yu. Witedersen fell behind 7-11 in the first game but made a spectacular comeback, scoring 12 straight points before taking the game away.
He eventually won 21–12, 21–17 before facing Thailand’s star shuttler Antony Gunting in the semi-finals. It was again the first game of the marathon to see a horn of points. At 26-25, a net error from Ginting finally handed the game to Witedesarn, who then denied the Indonesian shuttler’s return to seal the tie.
After the first-round win, Wittedsen was asked if Axelsen was unbeaten as the player stressed various topics in a long mixed-zone interaction. At the time, the youngster said he doesn’t focus too much on the result when it comes to facing the world No.1 shuttler.
“Well, it’s very difficult for me and for the other players but I have to try everything and if I lose, well, I want to learn,” Wettsern had said.
Axelsen is unbeaten in five ties against Witedersen so far. In fact, Vitidsarn has yet to play a game against the Danish No.1. Their last meeting was in October last year where Axelsen won 21-16, 21-8.
The fans rallied behind Axelsen.
Fans were already lining up for the star-studded semi-final between Axelsson and Christie and as the Danish shuttler entered the arena, he was greeted with thunderous cheers. ‘Victor Bhaya, Victor Bhaya!’ There were banners, and Indian chants from fans during Axelsen’s match and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the world No.1.
“I want to thank the Indian badminton fans for their support today. It’s really good to see badminton growing here. Thank you so much for the support, and I look forward to coming back in the years to come,” he said. Axelsen said after the win against Christie.