PETER-Gade Christensen has gone physically thinner than usual but it is a fat chance that the aging Danish star has plans to slow down.
The 33-year-old Christensen is eying triple glory this year – wins at the All-England, World Championships and Thomas Cup Finals to cap an illustrious badminton career of more than a decade.
Just a week ago, even a fever did not stop him from winning several tough matches to emerge as the runner-up to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in the season-opening Korean Open.
He showed great fighting spirit and impressive physical condition to beat South Korean Park Sung-hwan and China’s Chen Long in hour-long matches.
With the withdrawal of three seeded players – Lin Dan of China and Indonesia’s Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Simon Santoso – from his half of the draw in the Malaysian Open, the fourth seeded Christensen is tipped to make his second consecutive final appearance.
And the two-time Malaysian Open champion is not about to let slip the opportunity.
“It was a nice start to the season, just coming out of fever on the week before the Korean Open. It really went well for me although I had to endure all the tough matches while it was a breeze for Chong Wei,” said Christensen.
“In the Malaysian Open, I have a favourable draw. But I will still be careful and I do not plan to take anyone for granted. Any of the top 20 players can beat the top five on their good day.
“It will be great to qualify for the final again ... and win it this time. But I will not lose sleep if I did not. The Korean and Malaysian Opens are build-ups for me ahead of the All-England.”
The 1999 All-England champion is also looking at helping Denmark end an elusive chase for the Thomas Cup Finals in Bukit Jalil in May. He also wants to be a winner in the world championship in Paris in August.
“It looks like I am going to be the top singles player for Denmark again in the Thomas Cup Finals. It is always a big motivation for me to do well in the team event when it is held in Malaysia,” said Christensen.
In the 2000 edition in Bukit Jalil, Denmark came very close to upsetting Indonesia in the final.
Christensen felt that the rise of Jan O Jorgensen and Joachim Persson would give depth to the Danish team.
“Of late, Jorgensen has been playing great badminton,” said Christensen, who lost to the 22-year-old twice last year.
“And with our good men’s pairs (Jonas Rasmussen-Lars Paaske and Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen), we certainly have a team with the ability to win the Thomas Cup. Still, China will be the heavy favourites.”
On the domination of the current top players, including Chong Wei, Lin Dan, Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and himself, in world circuit tournaments, Christensen said: “The old guys are still holding on and pushing away the new faces. I think it’s going to be the same this year.”
Christensen will open his Malaysian Open campaign today against Hu Yun of Hong Kong.