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Axelsen keeps a little left in the tank for Shi

If the men’s singles final turns out to be anything like the semi-final between Viktor Axelsen and Shi Yuqi we’re in for a treat on Sunday.

The final-four tussle had everything you could want in a match, a defending champion in Chinese star Shi, Axelsen returning after an absence of two years and an emotional rollercoaster of top-class badminton.

The Danish player prevailed 22-20 13-21 21-9 with some incredible shots played throughout, none more so than an outlandish spinning backhand to go 11-3 up in the third.

At one point in the second game though Axelsen, who lost in the quarters three times in a row from 2015-2017, looked down if not out, losing six consecutive points from 15-13 onwards.

After the game, he revealed: “I think my facial expressions pretty much described how I felt! During the second game I made a few bad judgements, Shi Yuqi played really well and I decided to spare my energy a little bit.

“Luckily it turned out to be a good decision as I played quite well in the third game, so right now I’m just really happy and looking forward to the game tomorrow.”

That second game did indeed see some wild shots from the 25-year-old Dane but in the decider they all came off, as Axelsen reached a level perhaps not yet seen on court this week, diving all across the arena to scoop Shi’s almost-certain-winners from the deck.

Since losing to Lin Dan here in 2017 Axelsen has since been a world number one and world champion, but he’s not becoming too fixated on becoming the first men’s singles champion here since Peter Gade in 1999, as he prepares to face Japan’s Kento Momota on Sunday.

He added: “I think no matter what tournament you play there’s always these statistics and history and whatever - you can spend however many hours thinking about it.

“So I just try to put that aside and focus on the game. For now It’s turned out pretty OK and we’ll see tomorrow, it’s obviously going to be a really tough match but we’ll see what happens.”