Axelsen opens title defense with dominating win in Nanjing

NANJING, China (AP) World champion Viktor Axelsen has begun his title defense with a dominating 21-8, 21-7 win over Duarte Anjo on the first day of the badminton world championships.

Axelsen controlled the match throughout Monday, taking an early lead in both games before winning 12 of the last 13 points to advance. The Dane will face China’s Huang Yuxiang in the second round.

”I think it is very important for me not to think it too far. If I think too far, it will easily affect my next game. So I have to relax and play to my highest level,” said Axelsen after the match.

Despite being hampered by injuries early in the season, Axelsen won the European Championship in April and appears to be in the kind of form that last year helped him become the first European in 20 years to win the world title.

Third-seeded Shi Yuqi beat Adam Mendrek of the Czech Republic 21-13, 21-11. Shi, who won the All England earlier this year, has the highest seeding of the Chinese men. He will next play Rajiv Ouseph from England.

Despite the win, Shi still saw room for improvement.

”I have not been able to adapt to the venue completely and I didn’t play in my best condition. I’m not very satisfied with my performance in the first game because I’m only at 60% of my level,” he said.

Five-time champion Lin Dan, seeded 9th, opened with a 21-14, 21-14 win over Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands. Caljouw leveled at 9-9 in the second game before Lin pulled away behind a series of precision smashes. Lin will face India’s Sameer Verma in the next round.

Two-time champion and Olympic gold medalist Chen Long beat Chinese Taipei’s Jen Hao Hsu 21-13, 21-15 in a 57-minute match marked by numerous long rallies. Chen will meet Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand in the second round.

Among other first-round winners was No. 11 H.S. Prannoy of India, who beat Abhinav Manota of New Zealand 21-12, 21-11. Prannoy will face Brazilian Ygor Coelho in the next round.

No. 2-ranked Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia withdrew from the world championships and the upcoming Asian Games as he recovers from a respiratory problem, the Badminton Association of Malaysia said.

In men’s doubles, India’s Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy beat Daniel Nikolov and Ivan Rusev of Bulgaria 21-13, 21-18 to set up a second-round encounter with seventh-seeded Takuto Inoue and Yuli Kaneko of Japan.

All of the seeded players in women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles received first-round byes.