LONDON – Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen was one of three defending champions to crash out on a day of shocks at the All England Open on Thursday.
The Olympic and world champion suffered a stunning 21-18, 9-21, 23-21 loss to Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong in the men’s singles’ second round, and admitted that his opponent deserved to win.
“It’s one of the most special tournaments to me,” Axelsen said after the defeat. “It’s one of the biggest on the circuit so I want to do well. And when you fail, it’s tough.”
The 29-year-old Dane rallied from 15-19 down in the rubber to earn two match-points, but Ng saved them and went on to claim victory.
“It wasn’t to be today. I didn’t feel well,” added the world No. 1. “I had two match points, should have used some experience to win one of those, but that’s how it is.
“He played well and I made too many mistakes. He deserved to win.”
While the 28th-ranked Ng is thrilled with the upset, he is keeping his feet on the ground.
“This is the biggest win of my career,” said the 22-year-old, who set up a quarter-final clash with China’s 14th-ranked Li Shifeng. “I didn’t think too much before the match.
“I just wanted to go all out. I just tried to calm down when he had those two match points.”
Axelsen’s loss came after compatriot Anders Antonsen beat 2022 runner-up Lakshya Sen in straight games, meaning neither of 2022’s finalists reached the last eight.
The Dane’s exit was part of a sequence of unexpected departures for the big guns.
Japanese duo Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida, the defending women’s doubles champions, lost 18-21, 21-19, 21-9 to South Koreans Baek Ha-na and Lee So-hee.
Their fellow countrymen also struggled.
Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino, chasing their third successive title in Birmingham in the mixed doubles, were up against South Koreans Kim Won-ho and Jeong Na-eun. But, trailing 23-21, 13-7, they were forced to retire when Watanabe suffered an injury.
In the women’s singles, second-seeded South Korean An Se-young beat Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu-po 21-3, 21-7 in the round of 16.
She received a walkover in the quarter-finals after her opponent, 2015 champion Carolina Marin of Spain, withdrew due to illness.
Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia, the world No. 4, prevailed over Japan’s sixth-ranked Kodai Naraoka 21-9, 10-21, 21-13.
Lee will meet China’s world No. 12 Shi Yuqi in the semi-finals. AFP