AS a six-time winner, Rajiv Ouseph admits that winning over the neutrals at this weekend’s English National Badminton Championships could be a tricky task.
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 Hounslow ace. The European Team Championships in Basel are next week, while the Yonex All-England Championships in March loom ever closer.
While the National Championships – staged for the first time at stadium:mk this weekend – may not be his primary aim, 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," he said. "It can go against you but, hopefully, they will just come out to see the best players in the world.
“The nationals is always a good event. With 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 to prepare like any other tournament. I just try to be professional. It’s up to me to keep myself as focused as possible and continue to win. Then, more records can be broken.
“There’s obviously pressure in being favourite, but I try to 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 are a lot of people around Milton Keynes who are very interested in badminton."
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," he said. "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."
You can watch live coverage of the finals on Sunday, February 9, from noon to 5pm at www.badmintonengland.co.uk/tv and tickets are still available to buy at www.nationalbadmintonchamps.co.uk