Badminton: Viktor Axelsen reaches Japan Open final, faces Lee Chong Wei

Viktor Axelsen of Denmark celebrates his victory against Son Wan-Ho of South Korea during their men’s singles semifinal match at the Japan Open Badminton Championships in Tokyo on September 23, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2017
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Badminton: Viktor Axelsen reaches Japan Open final, faces Lee Chong Wei

TOKYO: Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen defeated world number one Son Wan-Ho in the men’s singles semifinals at the Japan Open on Saturday.
Axelsen, who beat two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China to clinch the world title in Glasgow last month, overpowered South Korea’s Son with a 21-16, 21-16 win.
He now faces Malaysian Lee Chong Wei who has won the Japan Open six times. Lee booked a spot in the final after a 21-19, 21-8 win over China’s Shi Yuqi.
In the women’s singles, Spain’s Carolina Marin, Olympic gold medalist last year, reached the final as Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara dropped out from the semifinals due to knee trouble.
Marin faces China’s He Bingjiao who beat Chen Yufei 21-14, 25-23.
Okuhara, newly crowned women’s world champion, was aiming to reclaim the trophy on home soil after winning it in 2015.
Home fans at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium expressed disappointment when the organizers announced her withdrawal.
“I did my best (to recover) but this morning, I wasn’t in the condition to play,” Okuhara, 22, told reporters, according to Sankei Sports.
“I was ready for a battle mentally but my body was telling me I couldn’t,” she said in tears.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 19 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But, not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.