Viktor Axelsen leads Denmark's title defense at Thomas Cup

BANGKOK — World badminton champion Viktor Axelsen will lead Denmark's title defense at the Thomas and Uber Cup which begins on Sunday.

Fresh from being crowned European Championships winner last month after being sidelined since January with an ankle injury, Axelsen will be seeking a repeat of the 2016 final when he led Denmark to a 3-2 victory over Indonesia for its first Thomas Cup win.

"Winning the European Championships title gives me confidence coming to this tournament," Axelsen said. "It will be tough to win again as there are many strong teams, but if we keep doing the same things we did last time, we can defend our title."

The tournament, held every two years, is being held in Thailand for the first time.

Denmark, the first European team to claim the title, will also include Anders Antonsen and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, who won the decisive fifth match for his team in the 2016 edition with a 21-15, 21-7 victory over Ishan Maulana Mustofa of Indonesia.

Drawn in Group D, Denmark's biggest hurdle will be five-time champions Malaysia, which features former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei and rising star Leong Jun Hao, the 2017 Asian junior championships gold medalist and 2017 world junior runner-up. Russia and Algeria are also in Group D.

China, in Group A with Australia, France and India, has won the tournament nine times and is one of the heavy favorites led by two Olympic gold medalists — Lin Dan and Chen Long.

Indonesia, the most successful nation in the tournament with 13 wins, is in Group B which also includes South Korea, Thailand and Canada.

In the women's Uber Cup, 14-time champions China are the favorites led by fifth-ranked Chen Yufei. China has won nine of the past 10 editions, missing out only in 2010 when it lost to South Korea.

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