Singles ace Hu Yun is focused on breaking into the world's top three as he leads the Hong Kong team at the Sudirman Cup in Kuala Lumpur this week.
The 32-year-old, ranked sixth in the world after achieving a record Hong Kong ranking of fifth last month, admitted he was now enjoying his best badminton despite his age. The previous highest ranking by a Hong Kong player was seventh by Agus Hariyanto in the early 2000s.
"My experience has helped me a lot and I still see room for improvement in my ranking," said the former China national team player, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2006 seeking more playing opportunities. "I would expect to reach world number four after the Sudirman Cup and then it will depend on my results in the final eight Super Series tournaments of the year to see if I can reach my target."
Hu said he had taken advantage of a comparative vacuum at the highest level after the London Olympic Games, with top duo Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei playing fewer events and the retirement of several leading players.
"Only Chen Long of China has made good progress after the London Games while other young players seem to take some time to reach that level," he said. "Although I am over 30, I am still mentally strong, and if I don't suffer any major injury, I can still be hanging around for a while."
After missing the London Olympics owing to the seven-year residency rule, Hu is confident of getting a place for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
He became the first Hong Kong shuttler to reach a men's singles final in a Super Series tournament last year before losing to Chen at the China Masters. He then made it to the semi-finals of the year-end Super Series finals in Shenzhen, but went out of the tournament, also at the hands of Chen.
Hong Kong have been drawn against Thailand and South Korea in group B of the Cup, which starts on Sunday, and coach Tim He Yiming believes they could reach the last eight. "The top two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the knockout stage and we have a chance," he said.
The Sudirman Cup features all five individual events in one tie, including two singles, two doubles and the mixed doubles on a best-of-five format. Hong Kong have named a 10-member squad, including players such as Yip Pui-yin in the women's singles, Tse Ying-suet and Poon Lok-yan in the women's doubles, 2012 world junior champions Ng Ka-long and Lee Chun-hei in the men's doubles and 2013 Asian championships bronze medallists Lee and Chau Hoi-wah in the mixed doubles.