While the men’s singles arena is shaping up to be a fairly open affair with several champions across the respective BWF World Tour events, there is one name missing from the top contenders list since the Tokyo Olympics.
Apart from one domestic appearance at the Chinese National Games, two-time world champion Chen Long has not been competitively seen for a long time.
Before he featured at the Tokyo Olympics, Chen had not played competitively for 15 months since the 2020 All-England.
Strict COVID-19 regulations by the Chinese government meant all their shuttlers were only confined to training sessions and simulation matches.
Still, Chen did amazingly well to clinch a silver medal after losing to Viktor Axelsen in the final.
His two consecutive Olympics final appearances were no mean feat, as he had to see off Lee Zii Jia, Chou Tien-chen and Anthony Ginting to get there.
So where is Chen now?
As his recent social media postings indicate, Chen seems content to spend time with his wife Wang Shixian, a former shuttler, and their young son.
Chen was slated for a competitive return this year, as he targeted a comeback at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, initially scheduled for this September.
But with the continental Games now postponed due to rising COVID-19 cases, will Chen come good on that long awaited return?
Even as someone who has won almost everything the game has to offer, Chen has always had to be content living in the shadow of his illustrious former team-mate Lin Dan.
When Chen clinched gold at the 2016 Olympics, he was almost completely snubbed after returning home compared to Lin Dan who was welcomed as if he won gold.
Such is Lin Dan’s fame he was cheered on like a winner at the airport, even though he missed out on a medal after losing the bronze medal match.
More painstakingly, even when he delivered silver last year, Chen was called “useless” and a “disgrace” by trolls who wanted him to make way for younger shuttlers.
Their wish is coming through with Weng Hongyang and Li Shi Feng shining in recent tournaments this year.
But until Chen says anything affirmative about his future, he remains an active shuttler and is still China’s biggest force in the men’s singles.
He sits a high seven on the world rankings, only recently displaced by Lee Zii Jia who moved to fifth.
Chen’s ranking will drop once the rankings are unfrozen in August, but his quality will no doubt be prevalent.
Still only 33, the former world number one has plenty of time on his side to play competitively and rattle the rest of the field.
The badminton world awaits Chen Long’s next move.