Aiming to secure his second title at the India Open in New Delhi, former world champion Viktor Axelsen on Sunday praised the current crop of Indian shuttlers, describing them as highly competitive and dangerous.

The former world No 1 from Denmark, who won a silver at the All England Championship this month, starts as firm favourite to win the India Open crown, a feat he achieved in 2017, after reaching three back-to-back summit clashes from 2015 to 2017.

“It is always really competitive, you have to always take care against them. I played Sameer at the All England, it was a tough match and it is always tough, they are always dangerous to face,” Axelsen told reporters after a practice session at the IG stadium.

The Yonex-Sunrise India Open will have Kidambi Srikanth, Sameer Verma and B Sai Praneeth in the top half, while HS Prannoy starts in the bottom part of the draw, which also features second seed Axelsen, who will receive the top billing following the withdrawal of top seed Shi Yuqi of China.

Given the hectic BWF structure, Axelsen said his main target this season is to be in top form at the World Championship.

“All England was one of the big goals, and I did well there. It is very hard to prepare for every tournament , now that we have so many, I feel okay now but I am not at my peak condition. The next goal obviously for me is the world championship,” he said.

“You can physically at most peak at 2-3 tournaments in a year and for me it is likely just two times and one was at All England and next time I can physically peak hopefully at the World Championship.”

Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, Chinese great Lin Dan and Chen Long have dominated the Olympics in the last three editions.

Asked if he sees a change in guard at 2020 Tokyo Games, Axelsen said: “Obviously it is hard to say right now but I think you will see different players this time at Olympics, it has been four years since last Games and that is the natural development of sports and change of players.

“It is a natural transition, some players are getting old, some young players are coming up, that is how it is in every sport. We don’t know if Lee Chong wei (recovering from an early stage nose cancer) is coming back and you never know who steps up, there is still a year to go,” he added.

Axelsen feels the level of competition in men’s singles is extremely high and he is slowly getting back to his best following an ankle issue that troubled him last year.

“The level is very high. At the All England, I played my best match against (Kento) Momota so far,” he said referring to his thrilling final clash at the All England championship. I feel I still still slowly going back to my top level and still a way to go for me.”

Badminton World Federation recently banned Denmark’s Joachim ersson, a former top 10 player, for 18 months for offences linked to betting and match-fixing.

Asked if it affected the Denmark team, Axelsen said: “We sort of saw it coming a little bit. So we prepared everyone but now it is in the past and we are over it.”

Talking about the draw at the India Open, Axelsen said: “The draw is exciting, some of the top players are not here. But I don’t try to focus too much on the draw and just look at the first round. I look forward to play Misha (Zilberman).

“I am not thinking about the quarters at this moment. I look to focus on one match at a time and next is on Wednesday we I will prepare for that.”