Axelsen Builds on Monumental Legacy

It is remarkable how well, and how quickly, Viktor Axelsen effected a turnaround at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023. Not that it hasn’t happened in the past – but it was still fascinating to watch.

Having started the event looking stressed and under pressure in a narrow Group A loss to Shi Yu Qi, Axelsen simply turned up as a different player when the two contested the final. Like he had done in the next two group matches – against Kodai Naraoka and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting – and the semifinal against Anders Antonsen, it was as if he’d flipped a switch. There was no tentativeness, no self-doubt, no annoyance at himself; just ruthless domination from the early exchanges. Shi Yu Qi was brushed aside in 49 minutes, 21-11 21-12.

Axelsen reacts during his opening match against Shi Yu Qi

With that, Axelsen continued to build on his already monumental legacy, at the HSBC BWF World Tour in general and the Finals in particular. He knew that the World Tour Finals was special, for it was at this event (or its earlier version, the World Superseries Finals in 2016) that he’d broken the losing streak in title rounds. His fifth title – his third successive one in four straight finals – pitched him above Lee Chong Wei as the most successful singles player at the season finale.

“I feel extremely proud, and I’m extremely tired as well,” said the champion. “This tournament is special to me – my first major title was in 2016 where I overcame a lot of doubt and a sort of barrier for me to start winning, so to win here again has a really special meaning to me. This is the fifth time I’m winning this year-end title, so it’s extremely special.”

Asked about his start at the tournament, and the way it ended, both against the same opponent, Axelsen remembered that it had happened earlier as well.

“I think maybe in 2017 too I lost to him in the group and ended up winning the next encounter. Luckily I made it through to the semifinals, and this tournament, if you’re really physically and mentally tough, you can get a second chance and I’ve managed to take that and I’m proud about that.”

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