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World Junior Champions strut their stuff

The quarterfinals of the 2012 Li Ning Singapore Open was a talent-fested showcase of World Junior Champions strutting their class on the senior stage with the 2008 and 2010 boys' singles champions set to face-off in Saturday's semifinal.

Will Saturday’s men’s singles semifinal be an indication of things to come in the post-Olympics badminton world?

Youngsters Viktor Axelsen and China’s Wang Zhengming (pictured right) – both former World Junior Champions in 2010 and 2008 respectively – headed for a showdown after winning their quarterfinals in impressive style.

With badminton likely to lose several of its veteran stars after the London Olympics, it’s possible that Axelsen and Zhengming will be among those whose young and raw rivalries light up the world of badminton. The pair had also met in the quarterfinals in Singapore last year where the Chinese had come out on top but surely the 18-year-old Dane is eyeing revenge.

In the quarterfinals this year, Zhengming took just 35 minutes to dispose off Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng 21-12 22-20, Axelsen saw Sony Dwi Kuncoro save eight match points before he nailed the ninth in the second game to win 21-17 26-24.

Axelsen is often hailed as Europe’s great hope, and with his win on Friday, he made his way into his first OSIM BWF World Superseries semifinal. Taking on Kuncoro, the Indonesian veteran who has been making his journey back to the top, Axelsen served up a delightful performance.

The Dane came out blazing, using his height to fire in smashes at steep angles and Kuncoro was left 9-16 behind before he gathered his wits. Axelsen (pictured left) however maintained his sublime touch at the net, frequently sending the shuttle dropping dead over the tape, and Kuncoro could do little but watch in desperation.

At 20-16, Axelsen had four match points, but the Indonesian saved them all. It became a cat-and-mouse game as Axelsen gained the edge, only to find Kuncoro clawing back again until a clever net dribble by Axelsen left Kuncoro with no option but to lift the shuttle, which the Dane smashed for his ninth match point. This time he capitalized and let out a Tarzan-like roar.

In the women’s doubles, China’s Bao Yixin / Zhong Qianxin took out Japanese top seeded pair of Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa 21-18 21-19. Bao was a double World Junior Champion in 2010 winning the girls’ doubles and mixed doubles, while Zhong won the girls’ doubles in 2007.

But 4th seeded pair of Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna showed great composure under pressure to turn the tables on local hopefuls Yao Lei and Shinta Sari (pictured right).

The Singapore pair had seven match points, but the Japanese were unbreakable under pressure, and finally earned their own match point after a stunning rally in which they defended everything that Yao and Shinta threw at them and won the 89-minute battle 21-19 17-21 27-25.

Yao Lei had won Singapore’s maiden World Junior title in 2008 with Fu Mingtian.

But the supportive home crowd was eventually rewarded with a semi-finalist from their backyard when Xing Aiying defeated Hong Kong’s Yip Puiyin 21-9 23-21 to set-up a semi-final clash against the stylish 2004 World Junior Champion Cheng Shao-Chieh of Chinese Taipei.

Results of the quarterfinals of the 2012 Li Ning Singapore Open can be found here.

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