Axelsen, Okuhara keep badminton world title defences on track

Publish: 11:49 AM, August 1, 2018 | Update: 11:49 AM, August 1, 2018

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 before winning 21-17, 21-8.

Women’s eighth seed Okuhara of Japan made even 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 in Wednesday’s early matches as Olympic champion Chen Long dispatched Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand, 21-16, 21-11.

But Chen’s Chinese 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.

The 34-year-old home favourite Lin, widely regarded as the best player of all time but seeded only ninth in Nanjing, faces off later Wednesday against Sameer Verma of India.