SINGAPORE - World No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen has pulled out of next week's Singapore Badminton Open.
His absence is a further boost for Singapore's Loh Kean Yew, who is seeking to become the event's first local men's singles champion since Wee Choon Seng in 1962, as Axelsen was a potential final opponent.
On Monday (July 5), a day after winning the Malaysia Open, Axelsen announced on social media his decision to skip the July 5-10 Malaysia Masters and July 12-17 Singapore Open.
The 28-year-old Dane said: "I would have loved to compete again here in KL this week and then in SG, however when I woke up this morning my body and my head was telling me that it's time to rest and recharge before I step on the court again.
"I need some days off to rest, celebrate my recent wins with my family and then build up towards new goals."
Axelsen's withdrawal is the latest for the Singapore Open men's singles event. Others skipping it include his compatriots Anders Antonsen (world No. 3) and Rasmus Gemke (No. 12), who are injured.
Meanwhile Japanese Kento Momota (No. 2) and Malaysian Lee Zii Jia (No. 5) have decided to focus on the Aug 21-28 World Championships, while Indian Lakshya Sen (No. 10) is preparing for the July 28-Aug 8 Commonwealth Games instead.
World No. 9 Loh has not beaten any of the four this year, and just three higher-ranked players in Taiwanese Chou Tien-chen (No. 4), and Indonesians Anthony Ginting (No. 6) and Jonatan Christie (No. 8) remain in the men's singles draw.
While the draw has opened up considerably for him, Loh, 25, refused to get ahead of himself.
He said: "Each player knows their condition best and I can focus only on myself. Besides, there are still many strong players in the field and there are no easy opponents.
"I'm excited to play in front of a home crowd, and I will take one step at a time, focus on each match and give my best to do Singapore proud."
He plays France's Brice Leverdez on July 13 in the first round and could face Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto in the round of 16.
If Loh progresses, he will only meet a seeded player in the semi-finals in either Ginting or Hong Kong's eighth seed Angus Ng.
Other notable names in Loh's half of the draw include Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who beat him in the SEA Games final, and Hong Kong's Lee Cheuk Yiu, who knocked him out in straight games in the first round of last week's Malaysia Open.