S. Kisona could be the toast of the women’s singles if she lives up her fast-growing reputation in the final three months of 2019.
The diminutive shuttler, who already bagged two international titles this year, is now staking a big push to feature in the SEA Games individual event at the end of the year.
With Goh Jin Wei set to be sidelined for up to four months due to surgery for a stomach ailment, Kisona is the frontrunner to represent Malaysia in the women's singles alongside Soniia Cheah.
"I have improved as a result of grueling training sessions.
"I was lacking in leg strength before this, but my coaches pushed me physically and now it has improved and I can last longer in matches.
"My aim is to be the national number one, and to do that I need to start playing in bigger tournaments against better players.
"Hopefully it will be by end of this year or the start of next year," said the 2013 Asian Youth Games bronze medalist.
The 21-year-old clinched her first title this year at the Hellas Open in August and swiftly followed it up with the Sydney International title a month later.
Kisona also made the semi-finals of the Malaysia International Series in June and Bulgarian Open Championship in August.
Sitting 116th on the world rankings, a good outing at the Indonesia International Challenge (October 22-27) and Malaysia International Challenge (November 12-17) can propel her into the top 100.
National coaching director Wong Choon Hann also appreciated Kisona's achievements so far.
"Players like Kisona have shown good progress and we hope she will continue to improve and be a contender for more titles in the future," said Wong, who also believes Goh will make a speedy recovery after her surgery.
"[Jin Wei] will need time to undergo rehab and fitness programmes before making a competitive comeback.
"But she is a top shuttler and I have full confidence she can regain her best form when she returns."
Goh has been struggling with this ailment since the start of the year, but recently returned to full training in early September.
She still managed to make two semi-final appearances this year and beat Japanese hotshot Akane Yamaguchi in straight games at the Malaysia Masters in January.