(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Viktor Axelsen is into the Olympic final
Date: 8/1/2021 8:25 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery & Yash Sharma
For the first time since Poul-Erik Høyer in 1996, a Dane is in the Olympic men’s singles final. Viktor Axelsen put an end to the fairytale run of Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon to set up a match to create his own special story. 

Axelsen, who hails from Odense – the land of Hans Christian Andersen, appreciates and respects Cordon’s magical fairytale but vowed to put an end to it today. Axelsen himself is something of a sporting Alchemist with a welcome ability to turn bronze into gold. 

At the 2012 and 2014 European Championships he took bronze before winning his first gold in 2016. At the World Championships in 2014 it was bronze before three years later in 2017 the Dane stormed to the gold. At Rio 2016, it was bronze, and now in Tokyo Axelsen is one match away from the gold.  

Demonstrating how truly special the run of Cordon is, the 34-year-old two-time Pan Am champion has not played Axelsen before. This is because they usually play at two different levels of circuit, but today they battle on the biggest stage in badminton. 

A businesslike Axelsen
The opening game was a close affair. Wary of his opponent’s touted superb attacking play, we saw an earlier version of Axelsen. Rather than contentedly defending before setting up the deadly attack, the Dane was more proactive. He went for half smashes which were not necessarily winners, but enabled him to keep the initiative on his side. 

- He has a really volatile playing style, he's really aggressive at playing tricky shots and unusual shots but with good quality. It was tough for me, the Dane emphasised. 

The Danish favourite edged past Cordon in the end. With Axelsen getting used to his opponent’s shots and correctly anticipating his attack, the second game was a one-sided affair. Sealing the match 21-18, 21-11 in 40 minutes, the hot favourite has already gone one better than his debut Olympics. 

- Actually, right now I haven't even been able to enjoy it yet. I was so tense. I wanted it so badly that I couldn't even enjoy the match today. It's a relief, maybe in a few hours I'll feel really happy and proud, but right now it's just relief. A silver medal is secured but I'm going for gold, Axelsen was relieved. 

- I feel sad because I wanted to win. I had a chance in the first game. I took a risk to play faster than Axelsen, kill my attack, there were some easy mistakes and I couldn't take the first game. There were no easy points and in the second I wasn't being patient, I couldn't keep control of the rallies, Cordon acknowledged. 

It’s not over yet
While Cordon’s fairytale run comes to an end, he still has a chance to win bronze and create history. 

- At the moment, I'm not thinking about the bronze medal playoff. I have to think about the match just now - what was good and what was bad and see who loses the other semifinal match and after that I will think about it. I don't want to think about the medal, I'm just having fun, the Guatemalan said.

Mutual respect
- I have huge respect for Kevin. Everyone who has badminton knowledge could see our first game was really tense, but this is the Olympics. He's a great surprise and it's a great story for the Olympics, Axelsen praised.

- This is Viktor Axelsen, he's not an easy opponent to play, he's tall, he has an advantage. I wanted to play more at the net and he was faster than me. He’s one of the best in the world, Cordon accepted. 

Chen Long was just hibernating
Axelsen will face the defending champion Chen Long for the biggest prize of them all: an Olympic gold. Given that the Olympic champion has won only four titles in the last five years, it was not surprising that Long did not feature in Morten Frost’s list of top six men’s singles contenders in Tokyo. However, the Chinese great has struck form at the right time. Convincingly beating two of those six contenders on the way to another Olympic final, he has come close to the perfection that saw him win Rio. 

He overcame Anthony Sinisuka Ginting today, an opponent who had troubled him on many previous occasions. The nervous Indonesian failed to give his best. His attack was not penetrating Long’s defense. It ended 21-16, 21-11. 

Since Axelsen has been the most successful athlete post COVID-19, one expects a tremendous battle for the ages! His unfavourable head-to-head record of 14-5 will mean little as it comes down to the nerves tomorrow. 

- I want more than just a final. This is not enough for me. The pressure is off. I don't think you could find a match where there will be more pressure on me than this, the Dane said.

Can Chen Long emulate Lin Dan by winning consecutive titles? Will Axelsen replicate Long by beating him, as Long took revenge by beating Lee Chong Wei? 

Calling all badminton fans! This will be an unmissable spectacle.  

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