HONG KONG: Badminton great Lin Dan will emerge from nearly a year on the sidelines to defend his world title next week, with Lee Chong Wei hoping to beat his nemesis in a major final.
Since overcoming Lee, the world number one from Malaysia, in last year’s gripping Olympic gold medal match Lin has barely set foot on court, an absence which has seen his ranking plummet to 100.
The four-time world champion, handed a controversial wildcard to compete in Guangzhou, has played just three competitive matches this year and conceded a walkover in the Asian championships in April, before skipping the Indonesia and Singapore Opens citing injury.
Despite his low ranking, 29-year-old “Super Dan” was awarded the world championships’ only men’s singles wildcard due to his “stature and fan appeal”—a move that went down badly with Lee.
“What about the others who have worked hard to qualify for the event?” Lee told Malaysia’s The Star newspaper. “Rather than qualifying, I should have waited for a wildcard too.”
However, Lin’s return is a gift for fans, who will also be delighted after the draw placed him in the opposite side to Lee, setting up a potential final between two players who have defined an era.
Lee, 30, knows this could be his last chance to beat Lin on the big stage, after losing the last two Olympic finals to the fiercely competitive Chinese, as well as the 2011 world title match.
And Lee will be gunning for Malaysia’s first ever world title off the back of wins this year in South Korea, Indonesia, India and Malaysia.
Malaysia coach Rashid Sidek said while Lin’s form remained a mystery, Lee was training hard and was fully fit, unlike last year when a serious ankle injury rocked his Olympic preparations.
The tattooed Lin, an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, can help China tighten their grip on the sport by sweeping all the titles on offer for the third world championships in a row.
Lee is on course to meet Chinese seeds Wang Zhengming and Du Pengyu, while Lin will come up against the number two seed Chen Long if both players make it to the quarterfinals.