Will Axelsen be celebrating in Glasgow? Only time will tell.
Axelsen perfectly positioned for assault on gold
Date: 8/18/2017 3:51 PM
Published by : Mark Phelan
It has been exactly 20 years since Europe last tasted men’s singles success in the World Championships. 1997 was the year and it was Denmark’s Peter Rasmussen who defeat Sun Jun of China to claim the title in what many regard as one of the great finals of the period. 

20 years on and once again the burden of expectation will fall on the shoulders of Danish contingent and even without the injured Jan O Jorgensen team Denmark looked perfectly poised to capitalise on their growing men’s singles reputation. 

A year ago Viktor Axelsen claimed the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics which was quickly followed by the year ending Super Series success in Dubai. In the space of a handful of months the Dane went from outsider to one of the ones to beat at next week’s World Championships in Glasgow which coincidentally is the same city Rasmussen won his title in 1997. 

Axelsen heads to Glasgow as third seed and opens up his campaign with a tricky match against Japan’s Takuma Ueda. While recent matches between the pair have gone the way of the Dane, Ueda did beat Axelsen in the worlds as far back as 2013. 

If Axelsen wins his opener, which as Europeans we have every right to believe he will, the path will certainly be a rocky one to a potential semi-final with Lee Chong Wei. India’s Praneeth has made steady progress back up the world rankings while NG Ka Long Angus is the player many would fear as a potential stumbling block for the Dane. That being said Axelsen certainly has zero to fear with a 100% head to head record against the Hong Kong player that stretches back to their junior days with their most recent meeting taking place in India in April. 

All things taken into consideration the Dane would have had a wry smile on his face when the draw was released and his game, demeanour and his big game record sets him apart as Europe’s big hope in the men’s singles draw.

Backing up Axelsen is the pretender to the throne, Anders Antonsen and Hans Kristian Solberg Vittinghus. The young Dane may have some cards to play in the top half of the draw. An opening round match against Fabian Roth (pictured above) is much anticipated. The German has had a remarkable twelve months on his return from a career threatening injury. Vittinghus will know his form as early as round one with a match against a player he has not beaten since 2014’s All England, Tian Houwei of China.

European Champion Rajiv Ouseph can eye a potential third round clash with Lin Dan. As European champion Ouseph will be expected to deliver but expectation has never been a burden on one of Europe’s most likeable gentlemen. His new title will only serve to top up his confidence reserves and the Englishman is sure to relish a shot at one of badminton all-time greats. 

Finally, we must pay homage to Marc Zwiebler as the German takes to the international courts for the final time. The German had a disastrous Olympic Games last year and will want to right some wrongs. Zwiebler will go into these worlds without fear or expectation and will play as free as he ever did. That might just be a recipe for a grand exit with some upsets along the way.
For the full men’s singles draw for 2017 BWF World Championships click HERE

Queen Carolina’s shot at badminton immortality

Over the past four years Carolina Marin has been Europe’s go to person in terms of global medal accumulation. Double world champion has a nice ring to it and after her success in 2014 and 2015 there is no doubt about her legendary status in our sport. However, there is also absolutely zero doubt that Marin is chasing more and a win next week would earn the Spanish great badminton immortality. 

Just a few short years ago as European’s we spoke about world success more in hope than reality. With Marin that has changed. We now look at the Spanish great as almost a dead cert for success and generally cast an eye over to Asia to see who is on form and who might challenge her. 

Seeded three the Spaniard is in the same half of the draw as Sung Ji Hyun. It is Marin who will fancy that draw more than the Korean. Marin will look to an earlier round clash against Japan’s Sayaka Sato as an indication of her form but once again we and I guess she would expect to win. 

A potential quarter final match up against Nozomi Okuhara is the match that should determine Marin’s real form in Glasgow. The Japanese has been Marin nemesis over the past few years with the Okuhara winning their last meeting in June and with an overall better head to head against Marin winning three of their last four meetings. 

In reality if Marin gets past the quarter final in Glasgow she is in gold medal form and the rest of the field will be fearful. Carolina Marin will also know that and if she builds up a head of steam then she is almost unbeatable in our badminton majors. 

Corrales and Gilmour also head into these world championships as seeded players albeit the final two seeds 15 and 16 respectively. Corrales has come back to life since her move to Milan but still needs at least two more gears to challenge the world’s best. 

Gilmour has come back to something near her best after the guts of half a year out through injury. Like Corrales the Scot will need to find another two gears to threaten the medals. That being said the home crowd support is likely to lift Gilmour to a new level and if she can match that support with a flawless performance who knows what may happen. 

The real benefit of a seeded position for both players is an opening round bye and given their draws thereafter the pair have an opportunity to get some early round success which all serves to drive momentum. 

European bronze medallists Sabrina Jaquet will be favourite in her opening round clash with Natalya Voyteskh. The Swiss number 1 will then play Saina Nehwal with the Indian as hot favourite. That being said the match will be Indians opener and at 16 in the world Jaquet will not be without her chances. She must just take every chance that comes to her.

Denmark will rely on Kjaersfeldt and Blichfeldt to cause an upset or two. Kjaersfeldt will have the toughest test of all against top seed Yamaguchi in round 2. That is of course if she can get by Maria Ulitina in round 1.

Blichfeldt (pictured above) will bring her all action style into her round 1 match against Fabienne Deprez of Germany. A match that will sure to be a feisty affair with a few cross net stare-offs for good measure. 

For the full women’s singles draw for 2017 BWF World Championships click HERE

Click HERE for the day 1 playing schedule from Glasgow

Article and images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe

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