Men’s singles title up for grabs after Axelsen’s withdrawal

PETALING JAYA: World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen’s (pic) withdrawal from the Indonesian Masters has thrown the men’s singles competition wide open.

The Dane, who captured the Malaysian Open and finished runner-up at the Indian Open recently, announced via Twitter yesterday that he has decided to skip the meet beginning today in Jakarta.

“I had been looking forward to playing in Istora in front of the amazing Indonesian fans as always, but my body is not ready for another week of competition,” tweeted Axelsen.

The Dane had just seen his winning streak in 13 finals ended by Thailand’s world No. 8 Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who came away with a stunning 22-20, 10-21, 21-12 victory in the Indian Open final on Sunday.

It was Kunlavut’s first triumph over Axelsen after losing all six of their previous encounters in straight games, including last year’s World Championships final in Tokyo.

The defeat coupled by Axelsen’s decision to pull out of the Indonesian Masters have given his rivals fresh hope.

The main beneficiary from his absence could be world No. 3 and home favourite Anthony Ginting, who was expected to face Axelsen in the quarter-finals.

The others who will be eyeing for the title now are Kunlavut, homester Jonatan Christie (No. 4), Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen (No. 5), Japan’s Kodai Naraoka (No. 6) and Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew (No. 7).

Meanwhile, independent player and world No. 2 Lee Zii Jia needs to raise his game to stand a chance of going far after suffering early round exits in the Malaysian and Indian Opens.

Zii Jia plays a qualifier in the opener, if he wins, he will take on Angus Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong. He is likely to meet Anders Antonsen of Denmark in the quarters.

Ng Tze Yong will open his campaign against Danish veteran and world No. 34 Hans-Kristian Vitthinghus in their first clash on the international stage.

Independent player Soong Joo Ven, who was supposed to start from the qualifying rounds, has pulled out due to an injury in his right leg.

But Cheam June Wei has been invited to play and he will start from the qualifying tournament.

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