Danish ace Viktor Axelsen stormed to victory in the final of badminton’s Malaysia Open on Sunday, successfully defending his title by outgunning Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.
The world number one only needed 40 minutes in Kuala Lumpur to secure his first trophy of the year, displaying top form to walk away with the match 21-6, 21-15.
Wasting no time in the first game, Axelsen immediately went on the offensive, raining his signature pinpoint smashes on a defenceless Naraoka.
He then kept up the pressure in the second game against a visibly exhausted opponent to clinch the win.
Axelsen conceded fatigue may have been a factor in the match, with Naraoka having played a mammoth 113-minute semi-final just a day earlier.
“He looked stiff-legged due to the long matches he’s played. For me, that was a good thing,” Axelsen told reporters.
“I just tried to play consistently at a high pace, and not give him many chances. If he wanted to win, he had to work really hard.”
The reigning Olympic champion has been badminton’s standout performer over the last year, winning eight titles in 2022 including the All-England and World Championships.
But he said Sunday there were many strong players capable of overtaking him, though he declined to give names.
“You cannot predict who will do well. For me it’s just about minding my own business, trying to do what works for me and keep improving,” he said.
Naraoka, who played 362 minutes in the tournament before his showdown with Axelsen, said the run had taken a toll on his body.
“I did feel tired coming into this game, but I still did my best. But he used his height well, and his smashes were too powerful for me,” said the world number seven.
Their match-up followed a hard-fought semi-final between the two at the World Tour Finals last month.
In the women’s final, Japanese player Akane Yamaguchi took the title by beating South Korea’s An Se-young 12-21, 21-19, 21-11.