Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei has said that he sees himself as an underdog heading into the World Championships next week as he will be unseeded at the event for the first time.
Chong Wei was banned for eight months last year and stripped of his silver medal after he tested positive for dexamethasone during the 2014 World Championships, where he lost to Chen Long 21-19, 21-19 in the final.
However, the former world number one has been in top form since making his comeback at the Sudirman Cup in May. Chong Wei won all of his matches at the team tournament, but couldn't prevent Malaysia from being knocked by South Korea in the quarter-finals.
Since then Chong Wei has extended his run of top form by winning the US Open and the Canada Open before Chen Long handed him a 21-17, 20-22, 13-21 defeat in the quarter-finals of the Chinese Taipei Open last month.
With the World Championships set to begin on Monday, Chong Wei admitted that being unseeded takes a lot of pressure off his shoulders.
"This is the first time I'm not seeded for the world championships," Chong Wei told The Star. "I'm the underdog this time … there'll be less pressure on me."
Chong Wei added that this is also the first time he has trained with coaches prior to the event and that he has spent more time analysing the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents.
"Previously, I prepared for the world meet without a chief coach. This time, I have Morten, Hendrawan and Tey Seu Bock behind me," he explained. "We have had better preparation and analysis. There have been more discussions about my game and my opponents'. I have improved – physically and mentally."
The 32-year-old believes that this year's World Championship title is up for grabs, as many players have been in good form heading into the tournament.
"I think, it will be one of the most interesting tournaments in recent times … it will be quite open," he said.
Chong Wei is also hoping that his new hairstyle will bring him good luck, after he decided to dye his hair blue.
"I dyed my hair…my hair had turned grey over the last few days," he said.