Glasgow: Viktor Axelsen became the first Danish player in 16 years to reach the men’s final at the Badminton World Championships when he virtually outplayed two-time defending champion, Chen Long 21-9, 21-10 in just 39 minutes in the semi-finals of the 2017 edition.
He now awaits the winner of the other semi-final clash, with five-time champion Lin Dan taking on top seed Son Wan Ho later on Saturday.
At no point was Axelsen in any trouble. In the first game, the only time Chen was ahead was when he won the first point of the match and thereafter, he pulled ahead to 7-1 and 13-2 and it was over quickly at 21-9.
Chen briefly led 5-3 and 6-4 in the second game, but Axelsen changed gears after that, and mixing his steep smashes with smart netplay, he finished off Chen 21-10 to make an early day.
The Danes were once a dominant force in world badminton, but since the turn of the century and even more starkly for the last 10 years, the Chinese, Lin Dan and Chen Long in particular, and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, have been overpowering.
But Axelsen could well make a dent there, as the dominance of Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee is being challenged more often now.
Axelsen had even hired Misbun Sidek for six months as a personal trainer before the Rio Olympics last year, and that paid him back with a bronze and other fine results. A world title could put him on the road to bigger stardom and put Danish badminton back into focus.
Interestingly the inaugural Badminton World Championships were won by a Dane, Fleming Delfs, a contemporary of India’s Prakash Padukone and in 1999, Peter Rassmussen became the second one to do so. In the time since, no Dane has lifted the title. However, Peter Gade did make the final in 1999 before losing to Indonesia’s Hendrawan.
First there were the likes of Erland Kops in the 1960s, and then Delfs, Svend Pri in the next decade before the legendary Morten Frost in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Poul Erik-Hoyer Larsen and Peter Gade carried on in the 1990s, and then Jan Jorgensen could not match the Chinese might. But now Axelsen could fill that void.
At 23, Axelsen is already emerging as a world star. He took the Danish team to the Thomas Cup title in 2016 and also won the European Championships in 2016, beating fellow veteran Dane, Jorgensen.
Axelsen had a brilliant run in 2016, when he won the Indian Open besides the Europeans, and finished the year with the BWF World Super Series finals in Dubai, where he beat Son in the semis and Tian Houwei in the final.
At the Rio Olympics, Axelsen lost to Chen Long in the semi-finals; he would only have been elated to have avenged that defeat here. In the Olympics bronze play-off, he beat Lin Dan.
Axelsen said, “It was nice to get revenge from the Olympic semi finals, I am very proud of myself. I am still a little out of words, I never expected to win that comfortably, I am very happy. I made little mistakes today and made very few errors.”
“My coach and I always look back at past championships to get better and improve on my game, Denmark is a small country but I am very proud that we can compete with the bigger countries. It's a dream come true, ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of a World Championships final!”
Chen Long said, “I will get some rest and get back for the National Chinese Championships. I got the first points, then lost a lot of the next, and that really affected my game; in the second I managed to go ahead and that put a lot of pressure on me, but Victor played very well.”
He may well have felt tired after being one of the last to finish on Friday and he was drawn to play the first match on Saturday. “I was the last men's singles, and today I was the first, I need to get better at playing at a consistent level. Congratulations to Viktor to getting to the final, he played the perfect game.”
Updated Date: Aug 26, 2017 18:12:01 IST