As a six-time winner, Rajiv Ouseph admits winning over the neutrals at this weekend’s English National Badminton Championships could be a tricky task, writes Chris Bailey
However the motivation still burns bright for the England No.1, who has seen his name etched on the men’s singles trophy every year since 2008.
It also marks the start of a busy month for the 27-year-old – the European Team Championships in Basel are in store next week while March’s Yonex All-England Championships loom ever closer.
And while the National Championships – staged for the first time at stadium:mk this weekend – may not be his primary aim, Hounslow's Ouseph is not about to let his domestic dominance slip.
“I think sometimes the crowd want the underdog to win and I’m definitely not that, so it can go against you but hopefully they will just come out to see the best players in the world,” he said.
“The nationals is always a good event, me being defending champion there’s a bit more pressure to keep my record going but I’m definitely looking forward to it.
“I just try and prepare like any other tournament I just try and be professional. It’s up to me to keep myself as focussed as possible and continues to win and then more records can be broken.
“There’s obviously pressure of being favourite but I try and use it more to my advantage and not let it get to me.
“I think it’s a good move that it’s going to stadium:mk. It will be a good venue there, there’s a lot of people around Milton Keynes who are very interested in badminton being around the arena in Saturday and Sunday.
“The event in Manchester was really well done and well run and hopefully they will be able to do the same.”
Despite his six-year clean sweep, Ouseph does not believe the National Championships will come and go without a serious challenger to his throne.
One player he expects to keep him honest is England No.3 Toby Penty, who will join him on the plane to Switzerland next week after recovering from last year’s injury troubles.
“I think Toby’s my main competition, I know he’s been injured a bit but he’s come on a long way in the last year if he’s playing well he’s a very dangerous player,” Ouseph added.
“We’re one big group in the singles. We’ve got the team event straight after the nationals so that’s quite good for morale.
“There are a lot more doubles players and it is just me and Toby holding down the fort for the singles.
“I think the doubles players have done well in the last few years and generate some interest in it so if we could do the same thing for singles it would be good.”
“You can watch live coverage of the finals on Sunday, February 9, from 12pm to 5pm at www.badmintonengland.co.uk/tv and tickets are still available to buy at www.nationalbadmintonchamps.co.uk.