TOKYO: Third-seeded Anders Antonsen crashed out in the first round of badminton’s world championships in Tokyo on Monday but top-ranked fellow Dane Viktor Axelsen was a ruthless winner.
The 2019 world silver-medallist Antonsen fell behind early and never managed to get a foothold in a 21-15, 21-19 loss to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.
The 25-year-old Antonsen was playing his first competitive match in three months after pulling an abdominal muscle in May and said it “felt a bit strange just to suddenly be on court again”.
“I felt like I played better and better and it was a shame that I didn’t make the comeback in the second game, I was so close,” said Antonsen, who had fended off four match points.
“It’s my first match in a long time so I just need to get back to competition. Today was the beginning.”
Axelsen lived up to his billing as the world’s number one with a straightforward 21-16, 21-12 win over Malaysia’s Daren Liew.
Axelsen was pleased to safely negotiate his way past the world number 29.
“Every first round is always tricky. Daren is an experienced opponent, he’s a really good player when he plays well,” said Axelsen.
“I really had to step up in big parts of the game today and I’m really happy about how I managed to deal with everything.”
China’s Shi Yuqi returned to action for the first time in 10 months after serving a ban and beat Azerbaijan’s Ade Resky Dwicahyo 22-20, 21-10.
Shi, a world finalist in 2018, retired during a 2021 match against Japan’s Kento Momota and was banned by the Chinese Badminton Association for making “inappropriate comments” about his withdrawal.
He said he “felt a bit nervous” as he entered the court to face Dwicahyo but “felt good to be playing again” once he had settled into the match.
“It definitely feels a lot different,” said the 26-year-old.
“When you’re playing in training it’s a lot different from playing tournaments.”