Photo credit: Tang Shi
Would Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen be able to make history and win his second consecutive World Championship title in Nanjing, or would any of the other three golden players take the gold instead? It was an interesting battle for the men’s single gold medal last week.
Everybody always talks about the best players in sport. In football we have Messi and Ronaldo, in tennis we have Federer and Nadal, and in badminton we have Axelsen, Momota, Lin Dan and Chen Long – the golden four. Were we going to see one of them win “easily” or would they be interrupted by some players we hadn’t expected to go all the way? That’s a question we saw answered last Sunday.
As top seed expectations to Viktor Axelsen were high and most fans probably already looked forward to a potential clash between him and Chen Long in the quarterfinal. Axelsen won his first three matches in straight games and as Chen Long did the same, the stage was set for the two gentlemen and their 13th encounter.
The winner of this quarterfinal would most likely be up against Lin Dan or Shi Yuqi, which would definitely be another interesting clash, or maybe Chou Tien Chen would be able to spoil the Chinese joy?! That didn’t happen though. First Shi Yuqi won the all-Chinese battle against five times World Champion Lin Dan and in the quarterfinal he managed to bag the match in three games against Chinese Taipei’s biggest hope.
Chen Long won the match against Axelsen and we had another all-Chinese battle in the semifinal. Having beaten the five times World Champion already, Shi Yuqi also eliminated his other compatriot, the double World Champion Chen Long who also holds the gold from the Rio Olympics in 2016. The big stage was set for China’s newest name in men’s single. Shi Yuqi was in the final.
Who could shake Momota?
With the withdrawals from Lee Chong Wei and Son Wan Ho the lower half of the men’s single draw did look, with all respect, quite manageable for Japan’s comeback wonder, Kento Momota. The Japanese who had been out for more than a year had come strongly back in 2018 and had already three titles in four finals this year, including the Asian Championships in April. Who on earth could stop this man?!
Danish youngster Anders Antonsen was just about to stop him, actually! In third round the Dane won first game and was close to winning second as well before Momota found his right gear and sent home an exhausted Dane in third game. Momota was shaken, but it didn’t show much in his next matches. Giving away only 45 points in the quarter- and semifinal, Momota secured his well-deserved spot on the other side of the net in the final.
History to be made
Shi Yuqi or Kento Momota, one of these would be the new World Champion. None of them had been in the final before so either would – obviously – be ecstatic by winning. The many thousand Chinese fans setting the atmosphere in the arena in Nanjing of course hoped for Chinese success once again – China has a record 14 titles in men’s singles with Indonesia coming second with “only” 6 titles. Japan had never won any medals in men’s single…
Either way, history would be written with Shi Yuqi’s or Kento Momota’s first gold. And we all know how that chapter of badminton history went…
Kento Momota, Japan
World ranking before Nanjing: 7
World ranking after Nanjing: 4