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Champion Yamaguchi cruises in badminton worlds opener

3. Champion Yamaguchi cruises in badminton worlds opener
Akane Yamaguchi of Japan returns a shot against Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia during their women’s singles match on day two of the Badminton World Championships in Tokyo on August 23, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

TOKYO — Reigning women’s champion and top seed Akane Yamaguchi cruised through her opening game at the world badminton championships on Tuesday, while men’s number one Viktor Axelsen continued his smooth progress.اضافة اعلان

Japan’s Yamaguchi beat Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung 21–12, 21–15 in front of an appreciative home crowd in Tokyo to kick off her hunt for a second straight world title.

“I wasn’t really nervous but you do get players who lose in the first round and go straight out, so I was really focused on getting the result,” said 25-year-old Yamaguchi.

“I never felt that I had any breathing space until towards the end of the second game. It was more about dealing with my opponent than me going on the attack.”

Spain’s Carolina Marin, who is aiming to win a record fourth world title in Tokyo, got her campaign off to a steady start with a 21–16, 21–14 win over Canada’s Wen Yu Zhang.

Former world number one Marin endured a horror 2021, missing both the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics and the world championships in her hometown of Huelva after suffering an ACL injury.

Marin returned to action in April this year but she said Tuesday that she was “not 100 percent yet”.

“This is the condition that I have right now and I have to play in this condition,” said Marin, seeded number five for the competition.

“Let’s see how far I can go in this tournament.”

There were also first-round wins for South Korean number three seed An Se-young — 21–18, 21–10 over Vietnam’s Thuy Linh Nguyen -- and India’s Saina Nehwal, who beat Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi 21–19, 21–9.

On the men’s side, Denmark’s Axelsen was pushed hard in the first game of his second-round match against Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands before hitting his stride in a 21–19, 21–10 win.

Axelsen has lost only one match on tour this season and he was again ruthless in putting away Caljouw.

Men’s number two seed Kento Momota will play India’s HS Prannoy on Wednesday.

China’s Shi Yuqi, who is returning from a 10-month ban from the Chinese Badminton Association, continued his comeback with a 21–13, 21–16 second-round win over Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke.

Shi, a world finalist in 2018, retired during a 2021 match against Momota and was banned by the Chinese Badminton Association for making “inappropriate comments” about his withdrawal.

He said he was “trying to prepare myself mentally to get better and better” after beating Gemke.

“I’m just taking it one step at a time but I’m hoping to get to the final and win the title,” he said.

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