Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen climbed to the top of the world rankings on Wednesday after a walkover victory over fellow Dane Rasmus Gemke in the World Tour Finals group stage in Indonesia.
Axelsen, 27, won men’s singles gold at this year’s Tokyo Games, moving ahead of Japan’s Kento Momota, who withdrew from their match due to injury.
Momota had been the world’s top men’s player since September 2018, and he also backed out of his match just one minute into it.
“I’m so sorry to my fans for ending up like this,” said Momota, who had a back injury earlier in the day during training.
Momota, who won a record 11 titles in 2019, and Gemke were eliminated from the competition because their remaining matches were deemed walkovers under tournament rules.
Axelsen is now the favorite to win the tournament and will face unseeded Indian player Lakshya Sen in his next group match on Thursday.
The World Tour Finals, which returns to Asia for the first time in ten months, is the season finale of three consecutive tournaments played in bio-secure conditions and without spectators.
Earlier, Akane Yamaguchi of Japan finished her women’s group match in 34 minutes, defeating Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min in straight sets 21-11, 21-14.
Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand defeated Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti of Indonesia 21-14, 10-21, 21-11.
“Today’s matches were very close. “We were under pressure and it was difficult for us to find our game rhythm,” Sapsiree explained.