Axelsen in dream win over icon

Viktor Axelsen shows his disbelief before sinking to the court after defeating Lin Dan 22-20, 21-16 in the men's singles final of the World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday.
Viktor Axelsen shows his disbelief before sinking to the court after defeating Lin Dan 22-20, 21-16 in the men's singles final of the World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Dane confesses he was nervous while denying Lin Dan his sixth world crown

GLASGOW • Denmark's Viktor Axelsen fulfilled a childhood dream by beating the legendary Lin Dan in straight games to claim the men's singles gold at badminton's World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday.

At 33, Lin was going for a record sixth title, but he had to settle for second-best after the 20-22, 16-21 defeat.

He had a game point at 20-19 in the first game, but always trailed in the second.

Axelsen is the third Dane to claim the men's singles crown. Flemming Delfs won the inaugural 1977 title and Peter Rasmussen was a winner, also in Glasgow, 20 years ago.

"It was my dream to be in a world final," said Axelsen, the 2014 world and 2016 Olympic bronze medallist. "But it is unbelievable to beat Lin Dan. I have been watching him for years. (I might have) appeared confident, but inside I was shaking like a little child."

At the end of the match, the 23-year-old Axelsen clutched his head in disbelief and then collapsed onto the court.

For Lin, it was a tough defeat. "If I had won the first game, the result might have been different," said the Chinese. "But in the second, all the pressure was on me."

As to his future, he was unclear. "I don't have time to think," he said. "I go home tomorrow and the Chinese National Games start the day after. Then I play in the Japan Open. After that, I have no plans. It will be difficult to play in the World Championships at 34."

For Axelsen, who also defeated Olympic champion Chen Long in the semi-finals, the future could not be brighter.

"It is great to know that all the hard work has paid off," said the strapping 1.93m player. "Chen Long and Lin Dan have won all the major championships and they inspire me. But I remain humble. Some people say I am too tall for singles, but I know I can improve."

In a superb women's singles final, Nozomi Okuhara became the first Japanese player to win a world singles title with a stunning 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 victory over India's P. V. Sindhu.

The match lasted 110 minutes - easily the longest of the championships - and neither player could have given more.

"I hope this win will inspire others," said the diminutive Okuhara, 22. "The third game was so close and I was absolutely exhausted. But I decided to try and enjoy it and I could see that she was very tired and was struggling. My attitude got me through."

Okuhara had lost to Sindhu in the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics last year. "I learnt a lot from that match," she said. "Today I changed my strategy and tried to keep her moving more."

The women's doubles pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota had a chance to win another title for Japan, but they had to settle for silver after losing 18-21, 21-17, 15-21 in the final to China's Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.

China collected a second title in the men's doubles with Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan scoring a comfortable 21-10, 21-17 win over the relatively new and unseeded Indonesian pair, Mohammad Ahsan and Rian Agung Saputro.

But Indonesia did claim a title, when Olympic champions Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir snatched the mixed doubles title from Chinese top seeds Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen 15-21, 21-16, 21-13, 21-15.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Axelsen in dream win over icon'. Print Edition | Subscribe