All systems go for rising Indonesian shuttler Jojo
Christie, 21, unfazed by potential q-final clash with Chinese legend Lin Dan
In the past eight months, Indonesian shuttler Jonatan Christie has beaten the top four players in the current world rankings.
One by one, the likes of Kento Momota (No. 1), Shi Yuqi (2), Chou Tien-chen (3) and Viktor Axelsen (4) were felled by his racket.
At the Asian Games final last August, he defeated Taiwanese Chou in a nail-biting three-setter in front of his home fans.
In January, the 21-year-old, who is affectionately known as "Jojo", overcame Shi at the Indonesia Masters' Round of 16, before going on to reach the semi-finals.
The following month, he slipped against India's Kidambi Srikanth in the second round of the All England Open, which was won by Momota.
But he continued his giant-killing act at last week's Malaysia Open, where he knocked out the top-ranked Momota and fourth-ranked Axelsen before being halted by Olympic champion Chen Long in the semi-finals.
With such promise, Christie, who has risen to world No. 10, could be one of the dark horses at this week's Singapore Badminton Open, where he meets Thailand's Khosit Phetpradab in the first round today.
If yesterday's press conference, which was open to the public, was anything to go by, he will certainly be holding his own against the world's top stars.
Christie was a main attraction along with Momota at the event at Wisma Atria, which was also attended by Kidambi, PV Sindhu and local shuttler Yeo Jia Min .
The dashing youngster was greeted by a star-struck female fan on stage. She sang an Indonesian song for him and was even moved to tears while taking a photo with her idol.
Armed with printed pictures of Christie, Indonesian fans among the 150-strong crowd had a field day snapping shots of their idol as he held court on stage. They made sure he was aware of their presence, calling out his name as he made his entrance and exit.
Christie is also hoping to make his presence felt on the court as he bids to overtake compatriots Anthony Ginting (world No. 8) and Tommy Sugiarto (9) and qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
He said: "This year, I hope to get as many points for the race to Olympics 2020. There are a lot of talented players here at the Singapore Open but I'm going to try my best and play. I'm very lucky that I can play and I want to have fun."
Despite winning the Asiad men's singles gold last year - the first Indonesian to do so since Taufik Hidayat in 2006 - Christie's critics were quick to point out that legends Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei were absent from last year's continental meet in Jakarta.
No doubt, Christie will have something to prove to them this week as Lin Dan, who won last week's Malaysia Open, is also in the draw.
Christie, who is unseeded, could meet either Lin Dan or Axelsen in the quarter-finals.
But the Indonesian remains unflustered, saying: "(I) want to stay focused from the very beginning and make sure that every game I'm going to play, I'll be focused even (if it's) Lin Dan or any other player."
Also standing in his path to glory is Momota, who has set his sights on his second Singapore Open title, following his maiden victory four years ago.
Speaking through an interpreter, the 24-year-old Japanese said: "This was the first place I won a title. This year, I will do my best to win it."
The top seed will face India's Sai Praneeth, winner of the 2017 Singapore Open, in the first round today.
Sindhu and Srikanth, two of India's other representatives, are excited to compete in Singapore, after missing last year's edition due to the Commonwealth Games.
However, Sindhu, 23, who was the first Indian female to win an Olympic silver medal, noted that it is important to remain composed.
She said: "I don't want to put more pressure on myself. I just need to enjoy playing (because) every match is important."
WHAT: Singapore Badminton Open
WHEN: Today to Sunday
WHERE: Singapore Indoor Stadium
TODAY'S TIES (SELECTED):
Men's singles, first round
- Kento Momota (x1) v Sai Praneeth
- Chou Tien-chen (x2) v Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk
- Viktor Axelsen (x3) v Lin Dan
- Chen Long (x4) v Anders Antonsen
Women's singles, first round
- Tai Tzu-ying (x1) v Zhang Beiwen
- Nozomi Okuhara (x2) v Evgeniya Kosetskaya
- Akane Yamaguchi (x3) v Aya Ohori
- Yeo Jia Min v Ruselli Hartawan
* Seedings in brackets
** Tickets: Available via apactix.com and sportshubtix
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