Kunlavut Vitidsarn knows he will be the heavy underdog against Viktor Axelsen in the men’s singles final on Sunday, but the world No.17 was hopeful of delivering a strong performance given that there would be no pressure on him.
The three-time world junior champion earned a shot at his first senior world title after an unusual semifinal in which his opponent crumbled in the second game. The 21-year-old became the first Thai in a men’s singles final of the BWF World Championships.
After a tight opening game, Vitidsarn enjoyed unexpectedly easy passage against Zhao Jun Peng, 22-20 21-6, and will take on the imposing figure of Axelsen, who will be looking to annex his second world title.
Vitidsarn has talked all week about his efforts to improve control, and he stuck to that script after his win today as well.
“I’m very happy as this is only my second World Championships,” said Vitidsarn. “I did make some mistakes in the first game but I could control the shuttle well in the second game.
“I was focussed on control, because there was drift in the arena. I’m looking forward to playing Axelsen in the final. I want to learn from him, how he can play so well at every tournament. There’s no pressure on me as he’s the favourite.
“The first game wasn’t good for me as I made many mistakes because of the drift, and it was difficult to control the shuttle. He seemed very tired. The shuttle has been slow this tournament and it’s hard to keep attacking all the time.”
Axelsen carried a 15-2 record over Chou Tien Chen before their semifinal, and although he came through in straight games, Chou had stayed combative throughout. Down 14-16 in the second game, Axelsen produced a brilliant spell, disallowing Chou any more leeway and taking seven of the next eight points.
“I’m happy about how I managed to step up in the second game. Chou made it hard for me, but mentally I managed to step up and change a few things, and that meant I could win the match.
“I told myself I had to focus on every shot, get down to defence and try to get everything over the net. I managed to do so, and win some crucial points.
About the final, Axelsen said: “I’m very happy about where I am at the moment, I enjoy it. I don’t think about who’s the underdog, who’s not. Vitidsarn is a great guy outside the court and he has played great this week. I’m looking forward to a great match tomorrow. It’s going to be tough.”
The women’s singles final will feature the Olympic champion against the current world champion.