Axelsen shocked in opening round
Men's singles world No. 2 suffers surprise defeat by Hong Kong's Wong in OUE Singapore Open
Just two weeks ago, Denmark's Viktor Axelsen won the India Open, dominating Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen to win the tournament for the first time.
But he came crashing back to earth at last week's Malaysia Open, where the 23-year-old world No. 2 was beaten by India's world No. 20 Ajay Jayaram in the second round.
Things got worse for him at the OUE Singapore Open last night, when the former world junior champion was dumped out of the first round following a 21-15, 21-15 loss to Hong Kong's 12th-ranked Vincent Wong at the Indoor Stadium.
Said a visibly irritated Axelsen: "I didn't play well and he played a really good game today.
"He was really sharp on the net especially, and I didn't have the mental and physical (game) today."
"After three weeks in Asia, everything becomes a bit tougher, but it's no excuse and today I wasn't good enough," added the shuttler, who exited the OUE Open in the second round last year.
With 73,544 ranking points, Axelsen would have come within touching distance of Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei (83,353 points) had he won the Singapore Open.
Winners of SuperSeries tournaments such as the OUE Open get 9,200 points, although the ranking system also takes into account corresponding performances in the same competition last year.
Asked on his missed opportunity, Axelsen said: "Of course it is, but every time you compete, you don't think about that.
"The media are interested in that kind of stuff, but I am not; I am trying to be a better player... I don't care what my ranking is, I just care that I do well in tournaments and the ranking will follow."
Axelsen wasn't the only big name to crash out of the US$350,000 (S$490,000) tournament yesterday.
Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon, defending champions in the men's and women's singles respectively, also lost their opening matches.
Sony lost 19-21, 21-15, 21-18 to South Korea's Lee Dong Keun while Ratchanok fell 21-8, 21-18 to Japan's Sayaka Sato.
Sony, 32, said: "I started well today but could not control the game at critical points and made unforced errors then.
"I felt I was playing better as the match went on, but it just wasn't good enough for me to win the match."
Similarly, Ratchanok, 22, said she couldn't find her groove, despite having a 6-2 head-to-head record over Sato.
"I confused my game today and she knew how to play me. I made several unforced errors and couldn't score some of the easy points," said the former world champion.
"I tried to come back in the second set, but it was too late, as the gap was too big."
Yesterday, the Indoor Stadium crowd was also treated to a rematch of last year's Olympic women's singles semi-final between India's PV Sindhu and Japan's Nozomi Okuhara.
Olympic bronze medallist Okuhara stretched Sindhu, who clinched silver in Rio, but eventually lost 10-21, 21-15, 22-20.
Women's singles world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying beat Thailand's Nitchaon Jindapol 21-10, 21-19, while women's singles Olympic champion Carolina Marin beat Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-12, 16-21, 21-12.
Singapore shuttlers come up short
The Republic's shuttlers had a day to forget at the Indoor Stadium yesterday, as one by one they crashed out of the OUE Singapore Open.
In the women's singles, Yeo Jia Min fell 21-15, 21-17 to South Korea's Kim Hyo Min after failing to settle into the game quickly enough.
Yeo, 18, said: "Overall, I couldn't control the game as well as I did in previous matches. I took a bit too long to adjust to the draft in the second set... and my racket control wasn't too good."
With Kim leading 19-17 in the second set, Yeo also misjudged a lob to the baseline, with the shuttle falling well within the boundaries.
In the men's doubles, world No. 26 Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Hendra Wijaya lost 21-14, 21-18 to Thailand's Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Bodin Isara, while Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean lost 23-21, 13-21, 21-19 to Indonesia's Lukhi Apri Nugroho and Tedi Supriadi.
Loh, 22, said: "It was my fault, I threw away some crucial points at the end and put us at a bigger disadvantage."
Chrisnanta and Wijaya were also catching up to their opponents in the second set, but fell short in the end.
Chrisnanta, 28, said: "We prepared well for today's game and it was the best performance I could put in.
"But, towards the end, at the crucial points, I was not daring enough to make certain shots."
Also, Singapore's women's doubles pair of Citra Putri Sari Dewi and Jin Yujia lost 21-9, 21-12 to Taiwan's Lin Xiao-min and Wu Fang-chien.
ONLY ONES LEFT
The mixed doubles pair of Hee and Tan Wei Han are the only Singaporeans left in the US$350,000 (S$490,000) tournament. The world No. 15 pair face China's Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong today.
Some of Singapore's shuttlers will head to the Asia Championships later this month in China, where they will use the opportunity to prepare for the South-east Asia Games in August.
Hee, 21, said: "(The OUE Open) was a good platform for us to see how far behind we are. Now, we know where we have to focus more on and we will come back stronger."