World number one Viktor Axelsen stayed on course to defend his Malaysia Open title as the Dane defeated Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama 21-7, 21-15 on Saturday to reach the 2023 season opener’s final.
The 29-year-old made light work of his opponent in the 46-minute match, working the Japanese world number 26 all over the court, taking an 11-0 lead in the opening game.
Tsuneyama, 26, pushed back in the second game and was able to match the 2022 Malaysia Open winner in the first few points, but Axelsen forced his way through for the win.
“I felt comfortable pretty quick. I came in with a good feeling and kept it through the whole match. I am satisfied with how I played,” said Axelsen.
Axelsen said he expected “a tough match” against Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in Sunday’s final, who knocked out Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn.
Naraoka and Axelsen previously faced off at the December World Tour Finals in a semifinal which Axelsen won.
The Japanese player defeated world ninth-ranked Vitidsarn in a nail-biting 113-minute semifinal - the day’s longest - sealing a 21-17, 19-21, 21-17 victory.
The encounter had a couple of episodes which saw the umpire mixing up scores and stopping Naraoka from taking a short water break as both players reeled from exhaustion.
The 21-year-old, who has so far played a total of 362 minutes over four matches, said “the will to win” overcame exhaustion.
“It will be another tough match in the final. I will eat and rest well to prepare against Axelsen,” the world number seven said.
Meanwhile, the women’s singles will see Akane Yamaguchi of Japan facing off against South Korea’s An Se-young in the final.
An beat reigning Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei 21-12, 19-21, 21-9, while Yamaguchi overcame Taiwanese Tai Tzu Ying 21-18, 21-16 after a 41-minute match.
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