Badminton: Top-ranked Viktor Axelsen withdraws from Thailand Open, Momota knocked out

Viktor Axelsen in action during a men's singles match at the Toyota Gazoo Racing Thailand Open 2022 tournament in Nonthaburi, Thailand, on May 18, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (AFP) - Badminton world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen pulled out of the Thailand Open on Thursday (May 19), citing an injury he sustained at last week's Thomas and Uber Cup Finals.

It means the top two seeds are out after the early exit of the out-of-sorts former world champion Kento Momota, who slumped out in the first round on Wednesday.

"After slipping on the courts last week during Thomas Cup, I suffered a minor injury which I have been dealing with the last 7-8 days," the 28-year-old Dane said on Twitter.

"After my match yesterday (he beat South Korean Heo Kwang-hee) it has gotten worse and therefore I have decided to pull out from the Thailand Open and get 100 per cent again."

He conceded the second-round walkover to Japan's Kodai Naraoka.

Thailand hosted the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals at Bangkok's Impact Arena last week and several players slipped during matches, raising concerns about courts not being properly mopped.

Axelsen and his Chinese opponent Lu Guangzu both took tumbles in the early stages of their first game last Wednesday.

The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist appeared to injure his ankle on the second point and was seen grimacing, but was able to continue.

"The floor was really slippery. I'm pretty frustrated with the court," Axelsen said after the match.

Japan's Momota, the world No. 2, was stunned 21-2, 21-11 in just 29 minutes by 36th-ranked Zhao Junpeng of China on Wednesday.

He has suffered poor form since returning from a career-threatening car crash in January 2020. He lost in his home Olympics at the group stage last July and also had a shock first-round exit at last month's Asia Championships in Manila.

In the women's singles in Bangkok on Thursday, Chinese Taipei's top-seeded Tai Tzu-ying, the world No. 2, eased past Indonesian Ruselli Hartawan 21-15, 21-14 to enter the quarter-finals.

Japan's fifth-seeded Nozumi Okuhara was upset 21-10, 13-21, 21-4 by Canadian Michelle Li.

Third seed Chen Yufei of China was stretched by compatriot Zhang Yiman before winning 19-21, 21-14, 21-13.

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