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Japan’s Yamaguchi retains badminton women’s title

TOKYO: Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi retained her badminton women’s world title in front of her home crowd in Tokyo on Sunday, beating China’s Chen Yufei 21-12, 10-21, 21-14. The top-seeded Yamaguchi, who won her first world title last year in the Spanish city of Huelva, had to dig deep to see off the challenge of Olympic champion Chen. Chen was bidding to become the first player from badminton powerhouse China to win a women’s singles world title since 2011.

China has won a total of 15 women’s singles world titles-five times more than any other country-but number four seed Chen was the nation’s first women’s world finalist since 2014. The 25-year-old Yamaguchi cruised through to the final without dropping a game this week in Tokyo. She steadily turned the screw on Chen in the first game before sealing the deal with a no-nonsense smash.

Chen came roaring back in the second game and leveled the match when Yamaguchi swatted a return into the net. Yamaguchi regained the upper hand with a big early lead in the third game and she made it stick, closing out the match when Chen hit a return into the net.

The win gave Yamaguchi her second title of the year, after lifting the trophy at the All England Open in March. The women’s singles competition at this year’s worlds was hit by injury, with 2019 champion PV Sindhu of India and Japan’s 2017 winner Nozomi Okuhara both pulling out on the eve of the tournament.

Axelsen wins

In the men’s final, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen won his second badminton world title on Sunday, beating Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-5, 21-16 in the final in Tokyo. World number one Axelsen has lost only one singles match this season and was too much for 21-year-old rising star Vitidsarn, who was blown away in the first game. Axelsen, who won Olympic gold last year, also claimed the world title in Glasgow in 2017. The 28-year-old Dane has been in imperious form this week in Tokyo, reaching the final without losing a single game. He took control right from the start against a shell-shocked Vitidsarn and clinched the first game with a commanding smash.

Vitidsarn made more of a contest of the second game but it was still not enough to stop Axelsen, who raised both arms and lay on his back after Vitidsarn’s final shot went long. The win gave Axelsen his sixth title of the season. World number 17 Vitidsarn was playing in his first world championships final, having knocked out Singapore’s defending champion Loh Kean Yew in the quarter-finals. Vitidsarn, a three-time junior world champion, was bidding to become Thailand’s first-ever senior men’s singles world champion. – AFP

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