World number one Viktor Axelsen defeated Japan's Kenta Nishimoto 21-13, 21-23, 21-18 in a gruelling match to win the Malaysia Masters final on Sunday. Top-seeded Axelsen was pushed to the limits in the see-saw battle in the capital Kuala Lumpur, eventually seizing his maiden 2018 title after 72 minutes of play.
Nishimoto pushes Axelsen all the way
The 24-year-old Dane faced a gutsy Nishimoto, who had scalped higher ranked opponents in his gallant run, including world number two Lee Chong Wei in the first round. Axelsen took the lead with a comfortable 21-13 first game win with his killer overhead cross court smashes, but Nishimoto rallied back to level the tie 23-21. The Japanese player kept a stellar defence against the attack minded Axelsen in the decider, but the lanky Dane's deadly net play proved the difference for 21-18 victory.
Axelsen, who won the world title in 2017, is hoping that he will be able to repeat that form this year. "The conditions here were really tricky, in the past I have had a few upsets in windy conditions. It's a big win for me", he said afterwards, before reiterating his plea for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to review a controversial new tournament ruling that will require players to compete in more matches. "I would like to play 10 years more, so if BWF wants to give us a fine for taking care of our bodies, then that's their decision. But I don't see it as the right way to do it". Players must now take part in 12 tournaments a year, an additional two from the previous structure.
Intanon prevails in the Women's final
Elsewhere, in the women's singles, Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon edged Taiwanese top seed Tai Tzu Ying 21-16, 14-21, 24-22.
Results (x denotes seeding):
Viktor Axelsen (DEN x1) beat Kenta Nishimoto (JPN) 21-13, 21-23, 21-18
Ratchanok Intanon (THA x5) beat Tai Tzu Ying (TPE x1) 21-16, 14-21, 24-22
Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) beat Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) 14-21,24-22, 21-13
Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen (DEN x3) beat Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (CHNx1) 22-20, 21-18
Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet (HKGx2) beat Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (CHNx5) 19-21, 22-20, 21-18