Two-time world champion Viktor Axelsen will go for gold in front of his home fans at the BWF World Championships in Copenhagen this week.
It has been a topsy-turvy season so far for the Danish sensation, who suffered a shock second round defeat at the YONEX All England and has struggled with injury at times.
But Axelsen, who claimed his second world title in Tokyo last season, is still world No.1 and remains the favourite for the men’s singles competition at the Royal Arena.
The 29-year-old faces an intriguing opener against Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen, with tenth seed Chou Tien-Chen and seventh seed Loh Kean Yew his projected third round and quarter-final opponents respectively.
Second seed Anthony Ginting has withdrawn from the competition, meaning third seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn and – runner-up twelve months ago – and fourth seed Kodai Naroaka will be among Axelsen’s leading challengers.
Reigning YONEX All England champion Li Shifeng is seeded sixth and begins his campaign against Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Panarin, while 12th seed and home favourite Anders Antonsen will be another to watch.
The women’s draw is led by the intriguing and growing rivalry between reigning champion Akane Yamaguchi and YONEX All England champion An-Se Young.
Young has usurped the Japanese at the top of the world rankings and will be going for her first world title, having picked up a bronze in 2022 after a semi-final loss to Yamaguchi.
The 21-year-old receives an opening round bye and is likely to face an early test in the third round from 12th seed Beiwen Zhang, before a potential quarter-final against seventh seed Ratchanok Intanon – and then a likely last four clash versus third seed Chen Yufei.
Second seed Yamaguchi has won the past two World Championships and victory in Copenhagen would make her just the second woman to win three world singles titles, after Carolina Marin.
The Japanese has been handed a kind draw and all eyes will be on whether she can set up a semi-final against fourth seed Tai Tzu-Ying, in what would be a battle between former world and All England champions.
Elsewhere, Marin is sixth seed and could face Tzu-Ying in the last eight; the Spaniard is on paper the most likely to break the dominance of the ‘big four.’
There are perhaps no bigger favourites in Copenhagen than Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, the All England champions odds-on to win a staggering fourth world title as a pairing.
The Chinese have dominated this discipline once again in 2023, with second seeds Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino likely to be among their main challenges – though fitness struggles have dogged the Japanese recently.
With less than a year to the Paris 2024, seventh seed Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue will hope to perform well ahead of the build-up to a home Olympics, while Danish interest is spearheaded by 11th seeds Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje.
In the women’s doubles, YONEX All England champions and third seeds Kim So-Yeong and Kong Hee-Yong will be aiming for a first ever global gold.
The Koreans won Olympic bronze in Tokyo and then won world bronze later in 2021, before winning world silver 12 months ago after being beaten by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan in the final.
The Chinese pairing are top seeds in Copenhagen and will be after a fourth world title in total and a third triumph in a row, with previous success in 2017, 2021 and then last summer.
Gunning for a first world title will be world No.1 double pairing Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto, having previously claimed world bronze medals in 2019 and 2022.
The Indonesians could face England’s Rory Easton and Zach Russ in their first match, with a potential All England final rematch against eighth seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan in the last eight.