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Defending champion Nozomi Okuhara reaches third round at badminton world championships

AFP-JIJI

Nozomi Okuhara and Viktor Axelsen stormed into the third round to remain on course for back-to-back women’s and men’s titles at the badminton world championships on Wednesday.

Denmark’s Axelsen, the top seed and men’s world No. 1, overcame a spirited first-game challenge from China’s unseeded Huang Yuxiang before winning 21-17, 21-8.

Okuhara, the eighth seed on the women’s side, made even shorter work of unseeded Rachel Honderich, sending the 22-year-old Canadian packing 21-11, 21-9 in just 28 minutes in Nanjing.

Host China, led by the great Lin Dan, is the sport’s superpower, but has seen its dominance slip in recent years and can expect a tough fight against the rest of the world’s best in Nanjing.

It was so far so good in Wednesday’s early matches as Olympic champion Chen Long dispatched Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand, 21-16, 21-11.

But Chen’s Chinese compatriot, women’s fifth seed Chen Yufei, had a rougher time against Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia.

After Chen won the first game 21-17, Tunjung jumped out to a 17-10 lead in the second and looked ready to extend the match to a third game.

But Chen, 20, stormed back to take the game 22-20 and win the match.

“I think I’m better prepared today, mentally and technically, and this makes me more confident,” Chen told state-run Xinhua news agency.