Malaysian ace plays down 'Super Dan' clash in semis
World number one Lee Chong Wei played down his much-awaited clash with Lin Dan of China as the two best players cross swords at the Hong Kong Coliseum today. The semi-final encounter is the prize attraction at the US$250,000 Hong Kong Open, especially after the controversial withdrawals of reigning Olympic and world champion Lin, also known as 'Super Dan', from tournaments in recent months.
'I don't think he will pull out of this match,' said the Malaysian ace after his 21-16, 21-13 win over Ajay Jayaram of India in the quarter-finals yesterday. 'There are a lot of Olympic qualifying points at stake and it is very important. I am sure he will play.
'I know many people will come to watch, but it is just another match. I am now in the semi-finals stage and have collected Olympic points. Of course, I will try my best, play the best so the fans can watch a good game.'
Of the nine Super Series tournaments Lin has entered this year, he has withdrawn from four, including conceding a walkover in the Singapore Open final against compatriot Chen Jin.
But Lin, Beijing Olympic gold medallist, holds a better head-to-head record against his Malaysian rival this year. Lin claimed victories in the world championships in London this summer and the Korea Open in January, the tournament with the biggest prize money, US$1.2 million.
Lee beat Lin in the prestigious All England final in March.
'My form could not match that when I won the world championships,' said Lin, who cruised to a 21-15, 21-18 win over Shon Wan-ho of South Korea. 'I am now taking it a bit easy after winning major titles this year, such as the world championships and the Sudirman Cup for my country.
'This is the Olympic qualifying period and we have to play a lot of matches and it's difficult to stay at your best all the time.'
Lin said he was not pre-occupied with taking the number one title back from Lee. 'My coach has not yet asked me to do so, but maybe I'll do it at a later stage,' he said.
In the women's singles, defending champion Saina Nehwal of India was bundled out by Tine Baun 21-16, 21-15. The 32-year-old Dane is now ranked seventh in the world and has targeted the London Games as her last Olympics. 'I have gone through a lot of ups and downs in recent years and I hope today's victory is a good sign,' said the former world No1.
Baun will take on second seed Wang Shixian of China in today's semi-finals, a player whom she defeated at the same stage in June's Singapore Open before losing to Wang Xin of China in the final.
The other semi-final features two mainlanders, top seed Wang Yihan and third seed Wang Xin.
'I last won here in 2009, but since then my form has gone down,' said Wang Yihan, who beat Ai Goto of Japan 22-20, 21-10.
'I have gone through a difficult time but that experience has also made me a better and stronger player,' said the 23-year-old, who is now back in top form and only conceded the world number one spot to teammate Wang Shixian this month.