Given their track record and/or form, the top contenders for the men’s singles at Tokyo 2020 are expected to be Kento Momota, Viktor Axelsen, Anders Antonsen and Chen Long. A rung below, so to say, would feature Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Shi Yu Qi.
But there are others too capable of opening up the draw:
In his first major final at the YONEX All England 2021, and that too against a player of the quality of Viktor Axelsen, Lee Zii Jia showed he belonged to the big league. The world No.8 has the weapons and the ability; yet, will he be able to string it all together on the biggest stage of his career? Lee will have the comfort of not being under the sort of scrutiny that Momota and Axelsen would be subjected to, and that could well mean that the Malaysian will be a tough opponent even for the very best.
The Chinese Taipei player might be world No.4, but few would see him as a frontline contender alongside Kento Momota, Viktor Axelsen and Chen Long. Against them, his record is 2-11, 2-13 and 0-9 respectively. Yet, there is no doubting Chou’s ability to strike big. As one of the fittest, most consistent, and experienced players on the circuit, Chou will be ready to seize his opportunity.
His Asian Games gold in 2018 showed he was capable of winning the big titles, but the Indonesian hasn’t shifted gears as he was expected to. He did have good returns in the last full season in 2019, winning the Australian Open, and making the finals of the Japan Open and French Open. Title success at the majors in recent times has eluded him, but he could well pull off something special at the Olympics.
The Hongkonger had a good start to 2021 by making the final of the YONEX Thailand Open. In the truncated season last year he made two finals, winning the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters. Angus might not be the most talked-about men’s singles player, partly because of his soft-spoken, low-profile nature, but he can pose some problems for the big names.
Wang has steadily risen up the ranks over the last couple of seasons. The world No.10 doesn’t have any big titles yet, but he is a workhorse and a game trier, and could well cause a few ripples in Tokyo. At the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals this January, with wins over Ng Ka Long Angus, Kidambi Srikanth and Anders Antonsen, Wang showed he belonged.
The World Championships 2019 was expected to be his lift-off moment as he came away with a bronze medal. Since then, however, he has had only middling results. Yet, with the time he had to prepare for Tokyo 2020 and the opportunity to be at peak fitness, and with his undoubted skills, Praneeth could spring a few surprises.