Asian champion Kento Momota has a good chance to become Japan's first men's singles world badminton champion in Nanjing ©BWF

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen will start the defence of his Badminton World Federation world title in Nanjing tomorrow against a field that contains the Chinese player who is seeking a record sixth world title, Lin Dan, and a man who could make history for Japan, Kento Momota.

Axelsen's victory ended a run of eight consecutive men's singles title wins for China, and while Lin - who last won in 2013 - will be a major threat, so will his colleague Chen Long, winner in 2015 and 2016 and the reigning Olympic champion.

Axelsen, who came back from an injury-affected start to the season by winning the European title, is seeded to face Chen in the quarter-finals.

But he acknowledges that his greatest threat in the Championships that start at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Sports Park tomorrow and run until August 5 is Momota, whose outstanding form this season suggests he could become the first Japanese player to win the men's world singles title.

That title has been held by only three countries since these Championships were established in 1977 - Denmark, which has won it three times, Indonesia, with six wins, the last in 2006, and China, which has earned gold on 14 occasions.

After returning to international badminton after an absence of 15 months due to a gambling suspension, Momota won the Badminton Asia Championships in Wuhan in April, defeating four top players on the way to the title - Shi Yuqi of China, Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia - who has just announced he will not be able to compete at the World Championships - and Chen.

The Japanese player then spearheaded his country's Thomas Cup challenge, helping Japan into the final, where he beat Chen once again.

Japan might have lost the final, but Momota came away with an all-win record, including one over Axelsen.

Axelsen acknowledges that Momota is the player to beat.

"I think Kento is number one right now, with what he has shown over the last few months, coming back and beating everyone," the Dane said.

 "He is in the best form but hopefully I can come back and challenge him."

Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is strong favourite to win a first women's singles gold for her country at the BWF World Championships starting in Nanjing tomorrow ©Getty Images
Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is strong favourite to win a first women's singles gold for her country at the BWF World Championships starting in Nanjing tomorrow ©Getty Images  

With five titles from six events this year, Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is an overwhelming favourite to win the women's singles gold and, like Momota, she is seeking what would be a first singles title for her country.

Tai has lost just once in 34 matches this year - in the final of the Malaysia Masters, where she was beaten by Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon.

She has won the Indonesia Masters, the All England Championships, the Badminton Asia Championships, the Malaysia Open and the Indonesia Open.

But Tai will also be aware that there are enough players in the draw who are capable of stopping her.

Beiwen Zhang, representing the United States for the first time at a World Championships, China's He Bingjiao, Canada's Michelle Li and indeed Intanon all have chances.

Spain's reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin is also in the field.

Defending champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan is also a danger along with compatriot Aya Ohori, South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun, and - notably- India's Olympic and world silver medallist PV Sindhu.

In recent weeks Okuhara had claimed her form wasn’t good enough to mark her out as the champion - "I'm a challenger," she said - but her title win in Thailand appeared to make her change her mind.

The win was a good omen, she revealed, as she had won her last event before the World Championships last year.