A thrilling battle awaits as World No.1 Viktor Axelsen and young star Kodai Naraoka brushed aside their respective semi-final rivals to set up a clash in tomorrow’s final of the PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2023 at Axiata Arena.
The 29-year-old Axelsen remained on course for his second consecutive title in the Super 1000 Open – having crushed Japan’s top star Kento Momota in last year’s final – after defeating Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama in a one-side match of 21-7, 21-15 in just 46 minutes.
Naraoke meanwhile had to battle hard against Thailand’s three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn before confirming his ticket in a pulsating 113-minute marathon match, which ended 21-17, 19-21, 21-17 with the Japanese now holding a 5-4 record over the Thai.
“I feel good and pretty comfortable today…Kanta tried to put pressure in the second game and I tend the step back a bit, but in end, I found my rhythm to finish off the game,” said Axelsen after the match.
On tomorrow’s clash against Naraoka, Axelsen said: “I expect a top match tomorrow. The last time we met, it was close and I expect tomorrow’s match to be close as well.”
For Naraoke, who has now played 362 minutes in four matches here, revenge will be on top of his mind as he seeks to create history and prevent the Dane from lifting his second title in the Malaysia Open.
“Yes, it was a tough and long and intense match today…I had to dig deep and stayed focussed throughout the match,” said Naraoke after the match.
World No. 1 pair, Fajar Alfian- Rian Ardianto stormed into their second consecutive final of the Malaysia Open, setting up a clash against China’s Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang of China in tomorrow’s final.
The Indonesian top pair defeated Korean pair Kang Min Hyuk-Seo Seung Jae 21-18, 21-17 while Liang-Wang downed Indian pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chrig Shetty 21-16, 11-21, 21-15.
Meanwhile, Akane Yamaguchi’s first title bid in Malaysia also remained on track as the Japanese stormed into the women’s singles final, brushing aside third seed and four-time Malaysia Open champion, Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan in straight games of 21-18, 21-16. It took Yamaguchi only 41 minutes to down the former four-time Malaysia Open champion.
Standing in Yamaguchi’s way now is second seed An Se Young, who made it into the final after last year’s disappointing outing which saw her campaign halted in the second round.
Se Young made it into the finals after a hard-fought win over China’s fourth seed Chen Yufei 21-12, 19-21, 21-9 in 71 minutes.
The women’s doubles final encounter pit top seed China’s Chen Qing Chen-Jia Yi Fan against Korean pair Baek Ha Na-Lee Yu Lim with both clinching contrasting wins in the semi-finals.
While the Chinese pair had it easy into the finals after defending champion, Apriyani Rahayu-Siti Fadhia Ramadhanti retired in the second game due to injury, the Korean pair had to battle hard for 72 minutes before registering a 21-17, 23-21 win over China’s Zhang Shu Xian-Zheng Yu.
In the mixed doubles, world No.1 Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong, seeking their fourth consecutive victory here, take on Japan’s world No.4, Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino in the final.
Zheng-Huang defeated Indonesia’s Dejan Ferdinansyah-Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja 21-16, 21-18 while Yuta-Arisa overcame Thailand’s third seed Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-18, 21-15 in 43 minutes.
Final Line-up (Sunday, 15 Jan)
(1) Viktor Axelsen (DEN) vs Kodai Naraoka (JPN)
(1) Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) vs (2) An Se Young (KOR)
Fajar Alfian-Rian Ardianto (INA) vs Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang (CHN)
(1)Chen Qing Chen-Jia Yi Fan (CHN) vs Baek Ha Na-Lee Yu Lim (KOR)
(1)Zheng Si Wei-Huang Ya Qiong (CHN) vs (3)Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (JPN)