Having turned nearly everything he touched this year to gold, Viktor Axelsen heads into the season’s final event – the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021 – looking set to add another story to an already imposing edifice.
With a full set of major titles, there’s nothing that he hasn’t achieved before. In 2021, the Dane achieved a completeness in game that reflected in him winning seven titles, while winning 61 of 64 completed matches – an astonishing statistic by any measure. Yet, Axelsen talked of staying humble even as he tries to replicate his success at forthcoming events.
“Definitely things have been going my way this year,” said the Dane. “I’ve been able to produce good results in almost everything I’ve played. So I’m definitely humble and proud about that. I’m trying to keep both feet on the ground and remember what worked throughout the year and what I have to do in order to produce these good results and I try to do them over and over again and I will try to do that again this week. But there have been many tournaments for me, so I will try to take it one day at a time.”
The 26th World Championships, the third in Spain after 2001 and 2006, start today in Huelva, hometown of three-time champion Carolina Marin, who unfortunately had to pull out with injury. Axelsen will look to become the first player to win both the Olympic gold and the World Championships in the same calendar year, a rare opportunity that is also open to Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin, with the three other Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallists having not arrived in Huelva.
Coming at the end of a busy season, Axelsen stated that he was in good shape, with no injury worries.
“You realistically cannot peak at so many tournaments all the time. It’s not possible. So I just try to do maintenance, so to say. Just try to maintain the level of play I have, physically and also mentally. Because there is a lot of pressure every time you go on court. So it’s a balance and I think I’ve managed to do my best in that regard.
“This time it’s definitely a different feeling compared to what you are used to. Usually for the World Championships you have a bit of a training stint beforehand and you know everybody is coming in their best shape. However this time around many of the Asian players have been travelling since September and we have been playing a lot of tournaments as well, so it’s definitely a different situation right now. But I’m really keen to get going and hopefully I can bring my best game.”
While Axelsen is overwhelming favourite, particularly in the absence of big-name opponents like Kento Momota and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, he will have to be on his toes in his opening match against Loh Kean Yew. The Singaporean himself has been on a good run lately, especially after a training stint with Axelsen in Dubai. At their recent meeting, in the final of the Indonesia Open, Loh took a game off Axelsen, quite a rare occurrence these days given the form the Dane has been in.
World champion in 2017, this will be a good opportunity for Axelsen to wrap up on a perfect note what has been an extraordinary year. Yet, he is also aware that no matter what unfolds this week, he has done enough in 2021 to head into 2022 with the satisfaction that he has left nothing behind, in terms of results and efforts.
“Definitely there is (deep satisfaction). I walk around with a big smile inside of myself. I’ve been able to fulfil many of my dreams. I’ve been able to play some really good badminton throughout the year, and I don’t have any injuries or anything getting in my way at the moment. So I’m really fortunate and really happy and I’m really humble about all this, and I’m excited about what’s in the future for me.”