Thai sensation in the way of Axelsen’s All-England title defence

You’re something else: Viktor Axelsen (left) with Kunlavut Vitidsarn at the Indian Open.

PETALING JAYA: Defending men’s singles champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark will face a big threat in the form of Thai sensation Kunlavut Vitidsarn in his bid to retain his All-England crown from March 14-19 in Birmingham.

Based on world No. 6 Kunlavut’s stunning win over world No. 1 Axelsen in the Indian Open final last month, the latter will have to be at his best if he is to defend his title.

Axelsen can also expect a tough fight as all the top 10 players in the world will be competing based on the entry list released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday.

Those who have confirmed their entries are Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie (No. 2), Anthony Ginting (No. 3), Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia (No. 4), Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen (No. 5), Japan’s Kodai Naraoka (No. 7), Singapore’s 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew (No. 8), India’s H. S. Prannoy (No. 9) and China’s Lu Guangzu (No.10).

Kunlavut, though, looks like the man most capable of stopping Axelsen after ending the latter’s winning streak in 13 finals in India.

The 29-year-old Dane had last lost a final prior to his defeat in India, when he finished runners-up to Zii Jia in the 2021 All-England.

“If I’m not at my best, he’s a strong player to play against. Let’s see ... I’ll be ready next time,” Axelsen had stated earlier.

Reigning world champion Axelsen, who was dominant in 2022, might have an advantage in the All-England, as he will be fresh after deciding to skip the German Open from March 7-12 in Mulheim.

Anthony, Jonatan, Tien-chen and Prannoy will also give the tournament a miss.

Currently, most of the players are playing in the ongoing mixed team events of the Asian and European championships in the United Arab Emirates and France. The tournaments serve as qualifiers for the Sudirman Cup in May 14-21 in Suzhou, China.

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