No title for Tai Tzu-ying as China's Chen Yufei wins badminton gold
Taiwan's world No. 1 settles for silver, as Axelsen sets up final with Chen Long
China's Chen Yufei claimed women's badminton singles gold yesterday, denying Taiwan a second straight night of success in the sport.
Taiwan had bagged its first-ever Olympic badminton medal the previous night with gold in the men's doubles competition.
But Chen ensured there would be no repeat in the women's singles, beating world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying 21-18, 19-21, 21-18 to capture the title.
Tai scuffed a shot into the net to end a marathon final rally, and Chen fell to her knees and roared to the rafters.
"I imagined getting the gold medal and this was very hard," said a breathless Chen, 23, adding that she couldn't remember the last shot of the match.
Tai's fans around the world have desperately wanted her to win a gold at the Olympics, having watched her take down some of the best for years but not medalling at the Games.
She has hinted in the past that she may retire after Tokyo despite being only 27.
"I've been playing badminton for half my life, so I'm just thinking about the rest," Tai said.
India's P.V. Sindhu, the world champion and 2016 Rio Games silver medallist, took bronze by beating China's He Bing Jiao 21-13, 21-15.
Sindhu had lost to Tai in the semi-finals.
In the men's singles semi-finals, Denmark's world No. 2 Viktor Axelsen overcame a nervy start to end Guatemalan underdog Kevin Cordon's unlikely tilt at the title.
World No. 59 Cordon has been a surprise package in Tokyo, but Axelsen was too clinical for him, winning their semi-final 21-18, 21-11.
The Dane, who will face China's defending champion Chen Long in today's final, was glad to secure a top-two finish after taking bronze at the 2016 Rio Games.
AXELSEN VERSUS CHEN LONG
"Obviously, I want more than just a final - this is not enough for me," said Axelsen.
"I was so tense and wanted it so badly, so I couldn't even enjoy the game today. In a few hours, I'll be really happy and proud, but right now, it's just relief."
The two players were meeting for the first time, and Cordon's unorthodox style caused Axelsen some early problems.
"He has a really volatile playing style," said Axelsen.
"He's really aggressive, playing tricky shots and a little bit unusual shots, but with good quality. So it was tough for me to get the pace high enough."
Cordon still has a chance to claim Guatemala's second Olympic medal in history in today's bronze medal play-off against Indonesia's Anthony Ginting.
"I had a chance in the first set," said Cordon. "I took a risk to try to play faster than him or try to attack with my smash, but there were some easy mistakes. And of course, with these kind of top players, it's not easy to win easy points."
Rio champion Chen has the chance to emulate compatriot Lin Dan in winning consecutive Olympic titles, after beating Ginting 21-16, 21-11 in the other semi-final.
"I didn't think too much about my strategy because it's already the semi-finals - I just needed to execute," said Chen.
"Because I haven't played internationally for the past year and a half, I don't know what level my opponents are at. That was a big question mark coming into the Olympics, so I'm happy I've been able to play well."
On Saturday, Taiwan's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin won the men's doubles final.
They beat China's Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen 21-18, 21-12, giving Taiwan its first Olympic medal in the sport. Malaysia's Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik took bronze. - AFP, REUTERS