Viktor Axelsen: ‘Players have to be very cautious’

Viktor Axelsen, who is now back on court to train in Denmark, did not see it possible for the players to undergo two weeks of quarantine upon arrival for tournaments.

Viktor Axelson has resumed training in Denmark.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

Viktor Axelsen won this year’s All England title in March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic-driven lockdown across the world stalled the on-court action in badminton. Obviously, he had neither the time nor the opportunity to celebrate the triumph the way he wanted. “It doesn’t take anything away from my victory. It’s really special to have the All England triumph on my CV,” comes the response from the former World champion and World No. 1.

This lanky Dane is now back on court to prepare for the events announced for the year.

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On his return to the court after the forced layoff, Axelsen told news channel WION, “I’m really delighted to be back on the court. We are fortunate in Denmark that the situation improved considerably, so we returned to practice. We’re not back to full throttle yet and only a limited number of players are back. It’s definitely better than nothing.”

The 2017 World champion and the top-ranked player that year, is currently ranked fourth. Back from an injury, the Rio Olympics bronze medallist did well this year, winning two titles from three finals.

“I hope players put a lot of thought before planning their schedule, because playing too many back-to-back tournaments is really tough on the body. I don’t know what the right thing to do is, but I have to be very careful with my body.”

Talking about the packed BWF Calendar and how he planned to play, Axelsen said, “It’s is an extremely ambitious plan, 22 tournaments (Hyderabad Open is now cancelled) have been planned in such a short span of time. The players will have to be very cautious since the risk of injury will be high. I hope players put a lot of thought before planning their schedule, because playing too many back-to-back tournaments is really tough on the body. I don’t know what the right thing to do is, but I have to be very careful with my body.”

Axelsen did not see it possible for the players to undergo two weeks of quarantine upon arrival for tournaments. “Hopefully, by September, some of the international travel restrictions will be relaxed. If that isn’t the case then it’s going to be very difficult for players to travel for events all over the world. We have to wait and see what happens, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”

On the possibility of playing before empty stands, he said, “It’s going to be a completely different experience. I haven’t played a tournament without fans in a very long time. It might feel a bit like a practice session. The fans create an atmosphere, which is really special. It is going to be disappointing to play without spectators but it’s better than not playing at all.

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Finally, about putting off the Tokyo Olympics by a year, Alexsen said, “It’s a real shame the Games had to be postponed. Ideally, the 2020 Olympics should have taken place in 2020. However, it was the right thing to postpone the event. The crisis is far from over and there was no other option available.

“At this point, I’m just using all my energy to prepare for the 2021 Olympics. There's still a year to go for the Games and there will be a number of tournaments before the showpiece event. Currently, I am working on getting back into shape, so that I’m ready for tournaments when things get up and running.

“It is really a case of observing how the next three months unfold and then we might have more clarity on the subject.”

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