The Thai world No.17, who became the first Thai to reach the men’s singles final at the championships, lost for the fifth time against the reigning Olympic champion Axelsen, who cruised to his second world title.
Kunlavut, a three-time junior world champion, was bidding to become Thailand’s first-ever senior men’s singles world champion, reports the Bangkok Post.
He knocked out Singapore’s defending champion Loh Kean Yew in the quarter-finals.
Apart from Kunlavut’s silver medal, Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, who took home the bronze medal for reaching the semi-finals, also made history by becoming the first Thai women’s doubles pair to get a medal at worlds.
Axelsen has lost only one singles match this season and was too much for 21-year-old rising star Kunlavut, who was blown away in the first game.
Axelsen, who won Olympic gold at last year’s pandemic-postponed Tokyo Games, also claimed the world title in Glasgow in 2017.
The 28-year-old Dane was in imperious form all week in Tokyo, claiming the title without losing a single game.
He took control right from the start against a shell-shocked Kunlavut and clinched the first game with a commanding smash.
Kunlavut made more of a contest of the second game but it was still not enough to stop Axelsen, who raised both arms and lay on his back after Kunlavut’s final shot went long.
The win gave Axelsen his sixth title of the season.
In the women’s singles event, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi won her second successive world title after the top seed defeated China’s Tokyo Olympics champion Chen Yufei 21-12, 10-21, 21-14.
Earlier, Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China claimed the women’s doubles crown after they beat fourth seeds Kim So-Yeong and Kong Hee-Yong of South Korea 22-20, 21-14.
Kim and Kong defeated Thai pair Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Meanwhile Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik delivered for Malaysia the country’s biggest achievement in an individual event when the duo claimed the men’s doubles crown with a 21-19, 21-14 win over Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.
When a drop shot finally landed with Ahsan and Setiawan stranded mid-court, Chia and Soh sank to the ground, disbelieving at the enormity of their accomplishment against an opponent bidding for their fourth world title.
“I have no words to describe what we’re feeling,” said Chia. “Of course we are so happy to make ourselves proud, to make our country proud, as the first Malaysian world champions.
“Last year we won the bronze at the Olympics in Tokyo. This year we got the gold medal in Tokyo. So I think Tokyo is lucky for us!”
Top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China claimed their third world title after they defeated third seeds Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Nagashino of Japan 21-13, 21-16 in the mixed doubles final.