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Top seed ‘Axe’d!

The first round of the 2012 Li Ning Singapore Open saw top-seeded Sho Sasaki crashed to his third straight first-round loss, falling in three games to Denmark prodigy Viktor Axelsen. 

Sho Sasaki hasn’t had a happy time over the last few months. This year has been a story of inconsistent performances from the world No.6 Japanese left-hander.

Following first round losses at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open and the Djarum Indonesia Open, Sasaki must be feeling a long way away from a successful 2011, when he was a dangerous prospect even for the likes of Lin Dan and Chen Jin.

On Wednesday, he was outplayed in the first game, recovered to neutralize the deficit, but then was blown away 21-10 in the third by the lanky and hard-hitting Axelsen (pictured right).

Apart from Sasaki, the 2012 Li Ning Singapore Open had another high-profile early loser: Taufik Hidayat. The maverick Indonesian was off-colour in a straight-games loss to Chong Wei Feng of Malaysia – Taufik’s second first-round defeat this year since the Victor Korea Open in January.

There was a reversal of fortunes from last week’s Indonesia Open – comeback man Sony Dwi Kuncoro avenged his loss to Du Pengyu (pictured left) with a straight-games victory, but another show-stealer from the Indonesia Open, India’s P Kashyap, could not carry on with that momentum as he was beaten by second seed Lee Hyun Il 21-18 21-12.

In contrast to the men, the women’s singles saw no upsets. No.2 seed Juliane Schenk (pictured right) cruised past Thailand’s Salakjit Ponsana 21-15 21-15 and set up a second round clash against China’s unheralded Chen Xiao Jia, who overcame India’s talented teen PV Sindhu quite easily, 21-16 21-12. Bulgaria’s Olympic-bound Petya Nedelcheva was stretched to the limit by Lindaweni Fanetri of Indonesia, and eventually prevailed 22-20 in the third game.

The absence of a full draw in the doubles events meant that several seeded pairs received “bye” into the second round. Though Indonesia’s mixed doubles pair of Fran Kurniawan and Shendy Irawati will progress straight to the quarter-finals as their second round opponents Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir, runners-up at Indonesia last week, had withdrawn from this leg of the 2012 OSIM BWF World Superseries in the last hour.

India’s V Diju and Jwala Gutta, who will then be amongst the favourites to go all the way in this event, beat Indonesia’s brother-sister duo Markis Kido and sister Pia Bernadet, who had troubled Tontowi and Lilayana in Indonesia last week.

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

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