Title defense on track as Axelsen, Okuhara triumph

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 world championships yesterday.

Chen Long of China hits a shot against Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand during their second-round match at the badminton world championships in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province, yesterday. The Olympic champion won 21-16, 21-11.

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 world championships yesterday.

Denmark’s Axelsen, the top seed and men’s world No. 1, 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 in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province, 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 and advance to the last 16.

“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.

Host China, led by the great Lin Dan, is the sport’s superpower, but it has seen its 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 yesterday as five-time world champion Lin, the No. 9 seed, got past Sameer Verma of India, 21-17, 21-14.

Two-time world champion Chen Long beat Thailand’s Phetpradab Khosit 21-16, 21-11 in a match that lasted 50 minutes. Chen started slowly as Khosit repeatedly attacked the front of the net, but Chen eventually pulled away for the win.

“When today’s match started, I still needed to adapt myself and mentally prepare myself,” said Chen.

The Olympic champion will next face 14th-seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.

Also for China, men’s No. 3 seed Shi Yuqi defeated England’s Rajiv Ouseph 21-18, 21-9.

Fifth-seeded Kidambi Srikanth of India beat Pablo Abian of Spain, while No. 6 seed Kento Momota of Japan continued to shine in his 21-8, 21-10 victory over Austria’s Luka Wraber. Momota will play Anders Antonsen of Denmark in the round of 16.

In the women’s singles, fifth seed Chen Yufei of Chiina 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.

Chen will next face Goh Jin Wei of Malaysia, who upset No. 14 seed Aya Ohori of Japan.

Second-seeded Akane Yamaguchi of Japan and Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol also advanced.

In men’s doubles, top-seeded Indonesians Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo advanced with a win over Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong of China.

They will face 10th-seeded Vladamir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov in the next round.

In women’s doubles, top-seeded Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan defeated Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Davletova 21-13, 21-14.

The win sets up a clash with fellow countrywomen Du Yue and Li Yinhui.

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