Will there be another blockbuster final between arch-rivals Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan at the world championships?
Last-chance saloon for Malaysian ace to win a major as Chinese superstar is seeded to face him for the title in Glasgow and continue one of sport’s greatest rivalries
One of the world’s great sporting rivalries could resume at this month’s world badminton championships in Glasgow – but Malaysian ace Lee Chong Wei and Chinese arch-nemesis Lin Dan would have to be at their best to set up another blockbuster final.
Lee will be looking for his first major after playing second fiddle to “Super Dan” for years but the 34-year-old could get the last laugh over the double Olympic champion and five-time world title holder.
In what could be the last-chance saloon for both players as they reach the twilight of their careers, Lee and Lin have been slotted in opposing ends of the draw, meaning they could realistically meet in the final on August 27. The championships kick off on August 21 with Lee having the more difficult draw.
The former world number one is projected to meet China’s world No 11 Tian Houwei and then reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long in the quarter-finals.
Surviving that, he could next meet Denmark’s number three seed, Viktor Axelsen – bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics and a key members of Denmark’s victorious Thomas Cup squad last year in Kunshan, China – for a place in the final.
Lee, the greatest player not to have won a major (world or Olympic Games), is seeded second at the Glasgow championships. He will face France’s Brice Leverdez in the first round after the draw was made on Wednesday.
— Dato' Lee Chong Wei (@LeeChongWei) July 31, 2017
Lin, meanwhile, has been seeded seventh and looks to have the easier route to the final – at least on paper. Badminton’s greatest player of this generation will take on host player Keiran Merrilees in the first round but the real work will begin in the quarter-finals, where he is slated to meet 21-year-old compatriot Shi Yuqi. Surviving that encounter, the 33-year-old Lin could meet top seed and world No 1 Son Wan-ho of South Korea in the semi-finals.
Denmark great, Morten Frost, who is technical director of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, said Lee faces a tough fight with Chen Long the big danger in the last eight.
“It’s a tough draw for Lee Chong Wei to have Chen Long in the quarter-finals,” he told The Star. “But if you want to win the title, you have to beat them all.”
“We’ve [Malaysia] been extremely unlucky not to win a world title yet,” he said. “But it will happen eventually and I feel we have a good chance this year.”
Lee remained optimistic he would finally end years of frustration at the worlds but said facing four Chinese players in the lower half of the draw would do him no favours. “You will somehow face them at some point,” he said.
“I expected it to be tough from the start and I’m prepared for any obstacles. To be a world champion, you have to beat anyone before you,” he said.
In women’s singles, Spain’s Olympic champion Carolina Marin will be looking for her third world title but she is expected to receive tough opposition from Japan’s top seed Akane Yamaguchi. India’s PV Sindhu, who is seeded fourth ahead of China’s Sun Yu, who is fifth seed, are also title contenders.