Badminton: Axelsen outlasts Nishimoto to win Malaysia Masters, Ratchanok squeezes past Tai

Viktor Axelsen hits a return against Kenta Nishimoto during their men's singles final match at the 2018 Malaysia Masters badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur, on Jan 21, 2018.
Viktor Axelsen hits a return against Kenta Nishimoto during their men's singles final match at the 2018 Malaysia Masters badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur, on Jan 21, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Badminton's world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark defeated Japan's Kenta Nishimoto 21-13, 21-23, 21-18 in a gruelling match to win the Malaysia Masters final on Sunday.

Top-seeded Axelsen was pushed to the limits in the see-saw battle in the capital Kuala Lumpur, eventually seizing his maiden 2018 title after 72 minutes of play.

The 24-year-old faced a gutsy Nishimoto, who had scalped higher-ranked opponents in his gallant run, including world No. 2 Lee Chong Wei in the first round.

Axelsen took the lead with a comfortable 21-13 first-game win with his killer overhead cross court smashes but Nishimoto rallied back to level the tie by taking the second 23-21.

The Japanese kept a stellar defence against the attack-minded Axelsen in the decider, but the lanky Dane's deadly net play proved the difference for 21-18 victory.

Axelsen, who won the world title in 2017, is hoping that he will be able to repeat that form this year.

"The conditions here were really tricky, in the past I have had a few upsets in windy conditions. It's a big win for me," said Axelsen, who ripped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd in celebration.

The Dane reiterated calls for Badminton World Federation (BWF) to review a controversial new tournament ruling that will require players to compete in more events.

"I would like to play 10 years more, so if BWF wants to give us a fine for taking care of our bodies, then that's their decision. But I don't see it as the right way to do it," he said.

Players must now take part in 12 tournaments a year, an additional two from the previous structure.

In the women's singles, Thailand's fifth seed Ratchanok Intanon edged out Chinese Taipei top seed Tai Tzu-ying 21-16, 14-21, 24-22.

Other results (x denotes seeding): Men's doubles - Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto (Ina) bt Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (Mas) 14-21,24-22, 21-13. Women's doubles - Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen (Den x3) bt Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (Chn x1) 22-20, 21-18. Mixed doubles - Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet (Hkg x2) bt Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (Chn x5) 19-21, 22-20, 21-18.