Axelsen, Okuhara keep world title defences on track

NANJING, China: Viktor Axelsen and Nozomi Okuhara stormed into the third round to stay on course for back-to-back men’s and women’s titles at the badminton world championships on Wednesday.
Denmark’s Axelsen, the top seed and men’s world number one, subdued a spirited first-game challenge from China’s unseeded Huang Yuxiang.
The first game was tied at 16-16 when water drops on the court forced a lengthy delay and eventually the relocation of the match to another court.
That’s when Axelsen caught fire, closing out the first game and stepping on the gas in game two to win the match 21-17, 21-8.
“I was not prepared for the unexpected incident on the court,” Huang said. “He (Axelsen) went into the game much better after the break. I didn’t get used to the new court as quickly as he did.”
Women’s eighth seed Okuhara of Japan made shorter work of unseeded Rachel Honderich, sending the 22-year-old Canadian packing 21-11, 21-9 in just 28 minutes in Nanjing.
Hosts China, led by the great Lin Dan, are the sport’s superpower, but they have seen their dominance slip of late and can expect a tough fight against the rest of the world’s best in Nanjing.
It was so far so good on Wednesday as Lin, the number nine seed, got past Sameer Verma of India, 21-17, 21-14.
Also for China, men’s number three seed Shi Yuqi defeated England’s Rajiv Ouseph 21-18, 21-9 and Olympic champion Chen Long dispatched Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand, 21-16, 21-11.
Their compatriot, women’s fifth seed Chen Yufei, had a rougher time against Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia.
After Chen won the first game 21-17, Tunjung jumped out to a 17-10 lead in the second and looked ready to extend the match to a third game.
But Chen, 20, stormed back to take the game 22-20 and win the match.
“I think I’m better prepared today, mentally and technically, and this makes me more confident,” Chen told state-run Xinhua news agency.
Also moving ahead were women’s singles second-seed Akane Yamaguchi, who got past Fabienne Deprez of Germany. — AFP