BUKIT JALIL: World No. 5 Kenichi Tago of Japan believes that he is his greatest enemy.
The industrious yet stylish Tago came close to winning his first Super Series title last year but fell in the final of the French Open to Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen.
The Chiba native’s confidence took a blow and he ended the year on a low – twice losing to Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto and failing to make the final of the Super Series Finals last month.
But after exacting revenge on world No. 3 Jorgensen in the quarter-finals of the Korean Open last week, Tago believes that the morale boosting semi-final finish is a good start to the year.
With that, Tago is ready for another good run at the Maybank Malaysian Open, even though he is expected to meet the on-form Chen Long of China in the quarter-finals.
“Last year, after losing to Jorgensen in France, I was feeling down for a while … and that affected me a little,” said Tago.
“But I’m back to normal now … I got my revenge over Jorgensen last week and making the semi-finals is a good start to the year.
“What’s more important is that I keep my fighting spirit strong and go into every match looking to win.
“As for this year’s Malaysian Open … I have Chen Long in my draw in the quarter-finals. So, the pressure is on me to get there first.
“I definitely agree that Chen Long is closest to (Lee) Chong Wei’s level right now as I’m still a little far off.
“My goal this year, though, is to be the top of the others closing in, and to get closer to Chen Long’s level first.
“To do that, I need to be tougher on my defence because Chen Long is a very explosive offensive opponent.”
Besides Tago, Japan also have a huge presence in the main draw as they have three others – Takuma Ueda, Kento Momota and Sho Sasaki – in the fray.