THEY are young and dangerous. All of them have beaten top stars on their good days. They are hungry for success and are equally skilful.
They, however, lack consistency and experience but no one can take them lightly. All of them have experienced injuries at one point in their careers in the last one year but they are back at their best.
Will they steal the limelight at the World Championships in Copenhagen and spoil the party of the regular faces led by Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the men’s singles event?
Kodai Naraoka (Jpn)
World ranking: 4
In just a year, Naraoka has become Japan’s No. 1 player. He has not won any Open title this year but thanks to his consistent showing, he is now ranked fourth in the world. A determined player, crafty and will fight for every point. His stamina is extraordinary but injuries to his knee and hip last year stalled his progress a bit. He’s back at his best and is seen as an able replacement for Kento Momota.
Kunlavut Vitidsarn (Tha)
World ranking: 3
The three-time world junior champion from Thailand is one of the few players who has beaten the dominant Viktor Axelsen of Denmark this year. He is aggressive, sharp and plays smart. He went on to win the Indian Open and Thailand Open titles this year. A shoulder injury slowed him down this year but he is back to make life difficult for others.
Lakshya Sen (Ind)
World ranking: 11
Lakshya was doing great but struggled for eight months last year before making a comeback from a nose surgery. His condition had made it hard for him to breathe while training but he showed that he was back in business after reaching the semi-finals in the US Open and Japan Open recently. And the physically fit Lakshya never tires easily.
Li Shifeng (Chn)
World ranking: 6
Shifeng is seen as one of the better prospects from China’s camp, who had been searching for new stars since the retirement of Lin Dan. Shifeng seems to fit the bill if his determination is anything to go by. He too was affected by a foot injury late last year but has made his way to the top again by winning the recent US Open title. Has good instinct in the game and navigates his way intelligently on court.
Ng Tze Yong (Mas)
World ranking: 22
Tze Yong has shown his fans how good he can be. He has showed his resilience in tough matches and even defeated Viktor Axelsen at the All-England second round this year. A hamstring strain however, affected him in March, which saw him skipping a few tournaments but physically he has improved now. Tze Yong may be a quiet person by nature but on court, he has the potential to make loads of noise with his immense talent.
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