Popov pulls off first Viktor-y over top Dane

PETALING JAYA: Danish shuttler Viktor Axelsen’s wait for an individual title this year continued after he suffered a shock defeat to Frenchman Toma Popov (pic) in the semi-final of the men’s singles at the European Championships.

World No. 1 and defending champion Axelsen was expected to set up an all-Danish final with world No. 4 Anders Antonsen but instead went down 19-21, 21-17, 9-21 to Popov in Saarbrucken, Germany on Saturday.

The reigning Olympic gold medallist has never lost to Popov before in three meetings but was not at his best and could not continue his good run against the latter.

Axelsen has been struggling to rediscover his best form this year and has not managed to reach a final in any of his individual tournaments.

The Dane lost out to China’s world No. 2 Shi Yuqi in the semi-finals of the Malaysian Open in January and came second best to Indonesia’s world No. 3 Anthony Ginting in the last eight of the All-England last month.

Axelsen also surprisingly lost to Taiwan’s world No. 24 Wang Tzu-wei in the second round of the French Open just before the All-England tourney.

The 30-year-old will be out to do better next in the Thomas Cup Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu.

Meanwhile, there was no slip ups from Malaysian Open champion Antonsen, who swept aside Finland’s Joakim Oldorrf 21-11, 21-11 to book his spot in the final.

Denmark are assured of gold and silver in the men’s doubles after veterans Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen and Anders Sondegaard-Jaspet Toft both smashed their way into the final.

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