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Shaky Axelsen survives badminton nail-biter in Thailand

By Lisa MARTIN
Denmark's Viktor Axelsen survived a nail-biter in Thailand. ©AFP

Bangkok (AFP) - Badminton world champ Viktor Axelsen fended off a gutsy assault from South Korea's Heo Kwang-hee in a three-game thriller at Thailand's Thomas Cup on Thursday night.

Denmark and South Korea were vying for a semifinal spot and earlier Japan knocked Taiwan out of the competition 3-2, as Kento Momota smashed rival Chou Tien Chen 21-18, 21-13.

Axelsen, a 28-year-old Dane, started the first game with confidence but lost momentum with a bout of unforced errors, allowing Heo -- who is ranked 31st in the world -- to gallop away to snatch victory 21-13.

In the second, Heo, 26, stayed on the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist's tail but some electrifying jump smash shots from Axelsen helped him mount a comeback and equalise: 21-17.

The final game was topsy turvy with scores levelled on 10 occasions, as a visibly frustrated Axelsen kicked a shuttlecock and yelled in rage after losing a point following the interval.

Axelsen managed to regain composure but gave away a few match points before finally coming up trumps 21-19 after 67 minutes of play.

"I'm not really satisfied with my own performance today.But I've got to say my opponent made it hard for me," Axelsen said, praising Heo's attack and overall game.

The action was equally spicy on the next court as Indonesia's fifth-ranked Anthony Ginting and China's Zhao Jun Peng -- 38th in the world -- did battle for an epic 80 minutes.

Ginting held on to claim the match 21-12, 25-27, 21-17, as Indonesia and China were battling it out for a chance to play Japan on Friday.

Malaysia and India were contenders for the remaining berth, as sixth-ranked Lee Zii Jia was victorious over his Indian counterpart Lakshya Sen, who is ninth in the world: 23-21, 21-9.

Earlier, India crashed out of Thailand's Uber Cup after women's badminton superstar PV Sindhu came up short against local crowd favourite Ratchanok Intanon. 

Thailand will now progress to the women's semi finals against China, while Japan will meet Korea on Friday.

Spurred on by a rowdy crowd, eighth-ranked Intanon -- a former world champion -- fought back from one game down to beat Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Sindhu 18-21, 21-17, 21-12, as Thailand defeated India 3-0.

Light on her feet, Intanon's technical skills helped her battle the severe drift on court.

"I know she is an attacking player...I was trying to be myself," Intanon told reporters.

Fourth-ranked An Se-young from South Korea triumphed over Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt -- who is 14th in the world -- 18-21, 21-15, 21-18.Korea triumphed over the Danish women 3-0.

Earlier, Japan knocked out Indonesia 3-0, as world number one Akane Yamaguchi saw off Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying -- a day after a surprise loss to Bilqis Prasista, a teenage Indonesian rookie ranked 333rd in the world.

Tai -- ranked second in the world -- pushed her Japanese 24-year-old opponent to three games but lost 10-21, 21-19, 19-21.

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Dive Deeper:
Shaky Axelsen survives badminton nail-biter
Badminton world champ Viktor Axelsen fended off a gutsy assault from South Korea's Heo Kwang-hee in a three-game thriller at…
South Korea dethrone China to win badminton's Uber Cup in nail-biter
Bangkok (AFP) - South Korea stunned defending champions China to win badminton's prestigious Uber Cup on Saturday in an epic…
Sindhu outplayed as India crashes out of Thailand's Uber Cup
Bangkok (AFP) - India crashed out of Thailand's Uber Cup on Thursday after women's badminton superstar PV Sindhu came up…
Thais to face China in semis
Thailand defeated India to set up a semi-final clash against defending champions China in the Uber Cup on Friday.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Srikanth & Co. assure India of at least a bronze at Thomas Cup
BANGKOK: The Indian men's badminton team scripted a memorable 3-2 win over Malaysia to enter the semifinals of Thomas Cup…
India's Prannoy seals historic Thomas Cup badminton finals berth
Bangkok (AFP) - H.S.Prannoy overcame an injury scare to secure the vital point as India shocked Denmark in Thailand early…
Get all your news in one place