A day ahead of beginning his Men’s Singles title defence at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2018, Viktor Axelsen had to field questions about a certain player who has become something of a thorn in his side.
Axelsen (featured image), who made history in Glasgow last year by becoming the first European in 20 years to claim the Men’s Singles World title, was asked about Japan’s Kento Momota, who has beaten him eight times in nine meetings.
Axelsen acknowledged that the Japanese sixth seed had been getting the better of him far too often for comfort, and that he hoped the next meeting would be different.
“I don’t feel good about playing him, to be honest,” said Axelsen, at a media interaction on the eve of the World Championships that will begin at Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Sports Park tomorrow.
“He’s been doing really well since he returned from the ban. I’m working hard, and I see it as a challenge. I hope to beat him the next time we play.”
Axelsen last beat Momota in February 2014. Since then, the Japanese has strung up a sequence of seven wins, including two this year – their first encounters since Momota returned from a 15-month layoff from competitive badminton.
“He’s technically and physically very strong,” Axelsen said, elaborating on why he found Momota a hard nut to crack. “He’s a complete player. I haven’t spoken much to him since we can’t communicate, but he seems to be a nice guy.”
Looking beyond Momota, Axelsen foresaw a tough competition: “There are many good players, especially in the top half of the draw – Shi Yuqi, Chen Long, Lin Dan. I guess you have to take one match at a time. Everyone is hard to beat. It depends on the day, the situation and the conditions.”
The defending champion suffered an ankle injury early this season before returning in April to claim the European title.
“A lot has happened since I won the World Championships,” said Axelsen. “I’ve got a bit better (since the injury), but I don’t know if it’s enough to repeat the performance of last year. The injury set me back, but I’m slowly getting better. There is some room still to improve. My training has been good and I feel good. This is a great venue and the World Championships is always fun to play.”
Meanwhile, Women’s Singles defending champion Nozomi Okuhara declared that she wasn’t setting high goals for herself: “I will take this as a big challenge, but I haven’t set any high goals, not do I have great expectations. I have prepared well, particularly on the psychological aspect, and we had a long training programme. It was tiring to play many tournaments this season, but I’m used to that.”
Guangzhou Training Helped: Adcocks
Mixed Doubles sixth seeds Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock (England) trained in Guangzhou following four back-to-back tournaments in South East Asia.
“We felt we benefitted from playing those four tournaments,” said Chris Adcock. “We’re in good form and we’re feeling good. We decided to set up a training base in Guangzhou because it didn’t make sense to go back home. It had good facilities and we’re well prepared.”
China have won every Women’s Doubles event since 1995, but top seeds Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan said that they wouldn’t let that statistic burden them.
“Every match is a new start. We won’t doubt ourselves and we won’t dwell on past experiences,” said Jia Yifan. “The most important thing right now is to adjust ourselves mentally to this event.”
Two-time Men’s Singles champion Chen Long and Men’s Doubles defending champions Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan were also present and foresaw tough matches ahead.