TOKYO, Aug 27, 2022 (AFP): Rising Thai badminton star Kunlavut Vitidsarn on Saturday set up a world championships final clash with Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and said he is looking to learn from the world number one.
The 21-year-old Vitidsarn beat China’s Zhao Junpeng 22-20, 21-6 in their semi-final and then watched Axelsen give another masterclass in his 21-15, 21-17 win over Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen.
Axelsen has lost only one singles match this season and he has not dropped a single game at this week’s world championships in Tokyo.
Vitidsarn acknowledged that he is facing a “really difficult” task in Sunday’s final but he is looking to soak up as much as he can from sharing a court with the world’s best player.
“I want to learn about the top players — I want to learn about their performance, their control, everything,” said Vitidsarn, a three-time world junior champion.
“I don’t have pressure. I just want to play.”
Vitidsarn had to dig deep to take the first game against the unseeded Zhao but then found a new gear in the second to win the match convincingly.
Zhao struggled to deal with the drift in the spacious arena and stared at the ceiling after letting three straight points that he thought were going out drop in.
“When I saw the shuttle it was behind me, but then when I looked up it just dropped,” said Zhao.
“It definitely felt a bit different from the previous matches.”
Axelsen had no such problems in his semi-final win over Chou as he moved one win away from a second world title.
The 28-year-old said he was “really proud” to make it to another final and sounded an ominous warning for Vitidsarn.
“Luckily I haven’t used that much physical energy so I’m feeling fresh and I’m feeling ready for tomorrow,” said Axelsen.
“I’m really going to try to enjoy it.”
– China eyes title –
In the women’s singles, Japan’s defending champion Akane Yamaguchi will face China’s Chen Yufei in Sunday’s final.
Chen beat Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying 15-21, 21-14, 21-18 to become the first Chinese woman to reach a world final since 2016.
China has not won world gold in women’s singles for 11 years and Chen said she was determined “not to crumble” under the pressure to end the drought.
“I want to win for the China team but the top players from all over the world are doing well in women’s singles at the moment and it wouldn’t be a surprise if anyone won,” said Chen, who also beat Tai in last year’s Final Tokyo Olympics.
“I’m just doing my best to win the title.”
Yamaguchi beat South Korea’s An Se-young 21-19, 21-12 to advance to the final for the second year running.
An had been taken to three games in her previous match and Yamaguchi said her game plan was to “dig in” and wear her opponent down with long rallies.
The strategy worked to perfection as An ran out of gas in the second game, and Yamaguchi will have the support of the home crowd when she faces Chen in Sunday’s final.
“It’s not often that Japan gets to host the world championships, so I’m happy that I could play the maximum number of games here,” she said. -AFP