Viktor on the prowl

All smiles: Viktor Axelsen posing with his medal and trophy after winning the World Tour Finals.— Badminton Photo

PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei’s status as the most successful men’s singles shuttler in the World Tour Finals could soon be under threat.

World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen is edging closer to the Chong Wei’s long-standing record of four titles after the Dane won the season-ending event for the third time when he outplayed Thailand’s surprise finalist Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-12, 21-8 in Bali yesterday.

The victory saw Axelsen made up for the last edition’s disappointment in Bangkok earlier in January when he lost to compatriot Anders Antonsen in the final.

The Tokyo Olympics champion reclaimed the crown he last captured in Dubai in 2017 when he beat Chong Wei 19-21, 21-19, 21-15. He also tasted success in 2016 in Dubai.

Chong Wei holds the distinction of being the most successful since the season-ending event’s inception in 2008, triumphing on four occasions in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

By featuring in yesterday’s showdown, Axelsen, a runner-up in 2015, has already equalled Chong Wei’s feat of playing in five finals.

Given Axelsen’s domination in the last two years, it looks like Chong Wei’s record may not stand for long.

As for the 20-year-old Kunlavut, he can certainly take heart despite the tame defeat.

The three-time world junior champion created history on his own by becoming the first-ever Thai men’s singles shuttler to make the final in the season finale.

Kunlavut went one step better than his compatriot and idol Boonsak Ponsana, a semi-finalists in 2010.

The Thais have made their presence felt in Bali as their mixed doubles ace Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai defended their title in style with a dominant 21-19, 21-11 victory over Japan’s Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino.

The world No. 2 made it a fourth victory on the trot adding to their wins at the Hylo Open, Indonesian Masters and Indonesian Open.

What made their victory even more mind-blowing was Sapsiree was playing in her 50th match since the start of the Sudirman Cup 10 weeks ago.

Sapsiree also played on the World Tour regularly in women’s doubles with Puttita Supajirakul.

South Korea’s An Se-young and Japan’s Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi also scored a first in women’s singles and men’s doubles competitions after notching a maiden title for their countries.

Se-young blew away India’s 2018 winner P.V. Sindhu 21-16, 21-12 while Hoki-Kobayashi broke Indonesian fans’ hearts by defeating Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya 21-16, 13-21, 21-17. Men’s singles: Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Kunlavut Vitidsarn (Tha) 21-12, 21-8.

Men’s doubles: Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (Jpn) bt Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya (Ina) 21-16, 13-21, 21-17.

Women’s singles: An Se-young (Kor) bt P.V. Sindhu (Ind) 21-16, 21-12.

Women’s doubles: Kim So-yeong-Kong Hee-yong (Kor) bt Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida (Jpn) 21-14, 21-14.

Mixed doubles: Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Tha) bt Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (Jpn) 21-19, 21-11.

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