All England Open: Chen, Lin Dan advance after early trouble
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — No. 1-ranked Chen Long and five-time champion Lin Dan shrugged off early trouble Wednesday to reach the second round of the All England Open, while Olympic gold medalist Li Xuerui made a winning start in the women’s draw.
Chen woke up on the morning of his first-round match with a tightened neck muscle, blaming the discomfort on a hotel pillow and wearing tape on the back of his neck to help relieve the pain.
The setback proved a hindrance in the first game, with fellow Chinese player Xue Song racing away with a 21-12 win.
An upset result loomed when Chen netted at 16-16 in the second game before the 2013 All England champion rattled off three points in a row to set up a decider.
Chen’s forehand smash was prominent thereafter and he comfortably took the match 21-9 to advance.
Lin, a five-time All England winner, had a prolonged spell away from the game after his last appearance in Birmingham in 2012. He blamed “rusty” badminton for his struggles during a 21-14, 12-21, 21-16 victory over Wei Nan of Hong Kong.
“It wasn’t easy but I am happy to have come through,” Lin said. “I haven’t competed for a few years regularly so it’s good to see so many familiar faces.
“All the top players are here so I seem a little bit rusty and out of form.”
The 31-year-old was never behind in the third game and the way he played out his final point, sending Wei to all four corners with deft touch and incisive smashing, indicates that Lin has plenty more to offer.
Lin will next play China’s Tian Houwei, who beat Ajay Jayaram, an Indian qualifier.
Li Xuerui said that a $40 million redevelopment of the arena had helped her to a first-round victory over Beiwen Zhang of the United States in just 33 minutes.
“The most important thing is the lights overhead, as in previous years it has been too bright,” she said.
Li, who lost in the first round in 2013 while attempting to defend her title, always appeared to be control against Zhang as her variation of pace proved the difference.
But Zhang clawed her way back to 15-15 from 15-9 down in the second game, posing serious questions of Li’s usually-composed game. Asked how she felt at that stage of the match, with a comeback well within her grasp, the American could only summon: “My feelings were pretty bad actually.”
A recent back injury has curtailed Li’s build-up to the All England and she will have to be at her best to beat her next opponent, compatriot Sun Yu.