Lucknow: World champion Viktor Axelsen staved off a strong challenge from World No.5 Korean Son Wan Ho as Bengaluru Blasters defeated Mumbai Rockets with two matches remaining in the Premier Badminton League here on Monday.
Playing the trump match for the Blasters, World No 1 Axelsen dismantled Son 15-6, 15-13 to hand his team an unassailable 4-0 lead after three matches in the five-game contest.
It was perfect platform for Axelsen as he came into the match with his side leading 2-0 after mixed doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Kim Sa Rang and women's singles player Kirsty Gilmour won their respective matches.
Axelsen did not disappoint the crowd who had braved the chilly weather and swarmed to the stadium in numbers on the first day of the new year. Axelsen who has been in impeccable form throughout the season began on a sound note winning the opening game without facing much of a resistance.
The Korean looked completely out of sorts and never could mount any challenge. In the second game, the Korean got a better measure of the Danish star and did give a better account but Axelsen
maintained his composure to seal the tie with a towering smash.
"I have played against him a lot of time and know that he can come back anytime. Everyone saw the way he came back in the second game and it was very crucial for me to stay focussed throughout. I am happy to have pulled it off and put my team in the driving seat," Axelsen said after the match.
Earlier in the second match of the day, World No.16 Gilmour extended Bengaluru's lead after she got the better of the USA's Beiwen Zhang, ranked 11th in the world 15-14, 15-8. The US shuttler got off a blitzy start and won four points on the trot. The Scot tried to crawl her way back but Beiwen clearly looked the better player on the court and went into the interval 8-5.
She maintained her stronghold on the match and was cruising her way to win the game. She was leading 11-6 and it was almost certain she would seal the deal. But Gilmour showed great resiliency and worked her way up to eventually win the game.
The Bengaluru player started from where she left in the second game and was in her imperious best as even though Beiwen tried to stay in the match, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist eventually closed the affair.
In the opening match of the tie, Sikki and Rang beat Mumbai duo of M R Arjun and Gabriela Stoeva 15-8, 10-15, 15-10 to log the opening points.