HYDERABAD : Overpowering Chinese legend Lin Dan to win the 2016 men’s singles Olympic bronze sped things up for Danish shuttler Viktor Axelsen. He went on to become one of the most dominant forces in the sport, towering over other players literally and figuratively with his 194 cm frame. From grabbing an Olympic medal to laying his hands on two straight BWF World Superseries Finals trophies, he seemed to be doing everything right. That streak, however, came to a rude halt after landing awkwardly at the Indonesia Masters in 2018. He sustained a left ankle injury and he had to put his career on hold for a while.
He had to wait three months before competing again. After undergoing surgery in mid-February, he made a roaring comeback in April to clinch the European Championship. But since that triumph, the 24-year-old has not been able to win a single title.
He has been stopped thrice this year by the resurgent Kento Momota. Other players such as compatriot Anders Antonsen have also troubled him. “It has been a tough year for me. No doubt about that. The left ankle injury took away a lot of time. From the time I had the surgery, it took me almost two months to get back to full-fledged training,” the World No 6 said on the sidelines of the Premier Badminton League (PBL).
Later this year, he had to take another break of about 7 weeks when a persistent pain in his other ankle did not subside. His last tournament on the World Tour was the Danish Open in mid October, where he was overcome by Antonsen in the Round of 16. “I am obviously not satisfied with my performance this year. When the left ankle heeled, some problems in the right ankle started. So, there have been quite a few roadblocks this year.”
He has made one more comeback with PBL, where he is representing Ahmedabad Smash Masters. Asked what he intends to do in 2019, Axelsen said: “I still do not feel a 100 per cent. There is no pain in the ankle, but I still need some time to get back to my best. I am concentrating on winning the All England next year.”
Losing all the three matches to Momota has been another spot of bother. The last time he recorded a win over the Japanese was way back in 2014 at the German Open. The head-to-head record reads 2-9. Asked how he intends to change that, Axelsen, who is fluent in Mandarin, said: “Well, there is not just one particular solution to a problem like that. It is just that every time you lose to a player like that, you need to get back to the drawing board. And train rigorously for the next clash.”
His PBL outing so far has been a mixed bag. After winning his first match, he lost the second to Tommy Sugiarto on Wednesday at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here. It may take a while before Axelsen gets back to his best.Wednesday’s result: Ahmedabad Smash Masters bt Delhi Dashers 4-1.