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Lin returns to All England after 3-year absence as favorite

March 3, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Lin Dan can rest for as long as he likes, it doesn’t matter. He’s the favorite in whatever he enters, including the All England Open this week.

The multiple winner of all of badminton’s greatest prizes, Lin will be at the National Indoor Arena for the first time since 2012, when the Chinese superstar captured his fifth All England title.

When he won his fifth world championship in 2013, beating current No. 1 Chen Long in the quarterfinals and great rival Lee Chong Wei in the final, Lin had played only one tournament in a year. He didn’t reappear for another eight months, and went out and won the China Masters without dropping a set, and the Asia Championships a week later.

Back on the road building up to win a third successive Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro next year, Lin has few opponents to fear, especially with Chong Wei sidelined.

“He’s not only my opponent, but also my good friend,” Lin said of his rival. “I’m hopeful he will make a swift comeback.”

Chong Wei has been suspended since November after a positive doping test at the world champs in August. The Malaysian, loser to Lin in the last two Olympic finals, claims he can’t understand why stem cell treatment in July for a thigh injury was still in his system a month later. He awaits a hearing with the Badminton World Federation, and has said if he receives the standard two-year doping ban, he will retire.

Chong Wei’s omission means Malaysia is likely to be without a player in the men’s singles draw for the first time since 1970.

In the meantime, world champion Chen has risen to No. 1 in Chong Wei’s absence, and won the World Superseries Finals in December. But his record against countryman Lin is six losses, no wins.

Top-seeded Chen will play a qualifier on Wednesday, while Lin, seeded fifth, opens against Hong Kong’s Wei Nan.

Lin will try to join a select company of three others who have won at last six All England titles: Frank Devlin of Ireland, six in the 1920s-30s, Erland Kops of Denmark, seven in the 1950s-60s, and Rudy Hartono of Indonesia, eight in the 1960s-70s, when the All England was regarded as the unofficial world championships.

“I have played here 12 times and won five titles,” the sixth-ranked Lin said. “The history is very special every time I see the top players coming here.

“I wish to get as many points as possible to help my world ranking and fight for my sixth title.”

In the women’s draw, top-ranked Li Xuerui will be favored to regain the title she won for the first time in 2012.

But for all her success, Li has been vulnerable on the biggest stages. She has lost in the last two world championships finals, and lost other finals last year to Chinese compatriots Wang Shixian (including All England) and Wang Yihan.

European hopes will rest on world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who will aim to become the first player not from Asia or Scandinavia to liff the women’s title since Gillian Gilks of England in 1978. Marin is seeded sixth.

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