Olympics: Danish badminton ace Viktor Axelsen through, to play shock semi-finalist Kevin Cordon

Viktor Axelsen beat China's Shi Yuqi 21-13, 21-13.
Viktor Axelsen beat China's Shi Yuqi 21-13, 21-13.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - Denmark's world badminton No. 2 Viktor Axelsen cruised into the Olympic men's singles semi-finals on Saturday (July 31) but compatriot Anders Antonsen was unable to join him.

Axelsen beat China's Shi Yuqi 21-13, 21-13 to set up a clash with Guatemalan world No. 59 Kevin Cordon, who kept his fairy-tale run going with a 21-13, 21-18 win over South Korea's Heo Kwang-hee.

But Antonsen stumbled in his quarter-final against Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, going down 21-18, 15-21, 21-18.

Ginting will face China's Chen Long in the final four, after the defending champion beat Taiwan's world No. 4 Chou Tien-chen 21-14, 9-21, 21-14.

Axelsen was all business as he dispatched the 11th-ranked Shi, completing the match in just 41 minutes.

"Making it look quite comfortable and the feeling you have on court are two different things," said Axelsen, the tournament favourite after world No. 1 Kento Momota suffered a shock early exit.

"He's an absolute world-class player if you let him play his game. I knew that I had to take control, I had to play the right game, otherwise it would be a really tough game for me."

World No. 3 Antonsen clawed his way back after losing the first game against Ginting, but was unable to last the pace as the Indonesian finished stronger.

"In the end he was better, definitely," said Andersen.

"Right now it hurts, it hurts really bad. I have to deal with that pain in the next few weeks. I'll be back stronger, I'm sure."

Cordon edged a step closer to winning Guatemala's second-ever Olympic medal with his win over Heo, who knocked out Momota in the group stage.

The 34-year-old journeyman crumpled to the ground in disbelief after hitting the match-winning point, then lay sobbing on the court until the result had sunk in.

"I'm still a kid, playing like a kid, having fun, trying to do my best," said Cordon.

"Can you believe that I'm in a semi-final right now? This feeling is just amazing."



Kevin Cordon of Guatemala is overcome by emotion after beating Korean Heo Kwang-hee in their quarter-final. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Rio 2016 champion Chen completed the semi-final line-up with a hard-won victory over Chou.

"It was very difficult, and both of us played really well," said Chen, who kept China's hopes of a badminton gold medal clean sweep in Tokyo alive.

"It was only in the second half of the third game that I started to rack up the points. Maybe I was just a bit luckier than him."

In the women's singles, Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying knocked India’s P.V. Sindhu out in the semi-finals in a clash between two of badminton’s best players.

In the first game, which world No. 1 Tai won 21-18 against Rio silver medallist and seventh-ranked Sindhu, the pair were evenly matched.

But Tai picked up the pace in the second game, finishing Sindhu off 21-12 in 19 minutes. “I reduced my mistakes and therefore didn’t have as much pressure on me,” she said, adding that she was not yet nervous about playing in Sunday’s final against China’s second-ranked Chen Yufei but probably would be just before the match.

“I need to go back and relax and prepare for tomorrow because it’s not over yet,” Sindhu said, with her eye on the bronze in a match against China’s He Bing Jiao. Chen overcame team mate He in the other semi-final in a battle of wills that the former won 21-16, 13-21, 21-12 and celebrated with a loud, uncharacteristic roar.