Top-ranked Axelsen sets up mouthwatering badminton final

Viktor Axelsen of Denmark is just one win away from his maiden China Open triumph. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2017

Top-ranked Axelsen sets up mouthwatering badminton final

SHANGHAI: World number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark will play the reigning Olympic champion and home hope Chen Long in Sunday’s mouthwatering final of the China Open.
In the women’s draw in Fuzhou, the Japanese fifth seed Akane Yamaguchi takes on the Chinese qualifier Gao Fangjie, who had previously never made it past the first round of a Superseries event.
The 23-year-old Axelsen, the current world champion and top seed, needed just 39 minutes to defeat unseeded Angus Ng Ka-long of Hong Kong 21-12, 21-17 in their one-sided semifinal on Saturday.
The imperious Axelsen is just one win away from his maiden China Open triumph.
But first he must see off the sixth seed Chen, who booked his ticket for the final with a topsy-turvy 21-17, 10-21, 21-7 victory over South Korea’s second seed Son Wan-Ho in 71 minutes.
Chen, 28, holds a strong advantage in his meetings with Axelsen, beating the Dane seven times and losing to him just once.
The home crowd will also have another Chinese to roar in Sunday’s women’s final in the form of 19-year-old surprise-package Gao.
The teenager stunned current Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain 21-19, 21-19 in one hour.
Gao’s opponent in the decider will be the Japanese Yamaguchi, who defeated Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, seeded eight, 21-14, 21-18.


Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.