HONG KONG: Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan crashed out of the second round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday to little-known hometown player Ng Ka-Long, raising questions about whether the two-time Olympic champion’s dominance on court is waning.
Lin, considered by many to be one of the true greats of the sport, looked sluggish compared to his 21-year-old opponent, who managed to take nine points off the Chinese player before conceding a shot.
It was the first meeting of the pair, and will likely be memorable for the young Hong Konger who was playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd as he dismissed Lin 21-8, 21-18 in 33 minutes.
“I think I am quite patient today and I am calm in doing some net shots and some lifting so I can better control the game. I think he didn’t play his best today, so I can have a chance to beat him,” said Ng.
Lin has won just one Super Series title this year — in Japan in September — and failed to get past the first round at the French Open last month, but the 32-year-old has dismissed retirement rumours, saying he is aiming for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
World number one Chen Long beat Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana to set up a quarter finals revenge match against Malaysian rival Lee Chong Wei, who beat him in Sunday’s China Open final.
China’s Chen, who is gunning for his seventh major title of the year in the southern Chinese city, swept aside Boonsak 19-21, 21-8, 21-13.
“Overall I am satisfied even though the first set took a moment to find my rhythm. Overall it was good,” said Chen.
Lee — fresh from back-to-back wins in China and France — beat Germany’s Marc Zwiebler 21-12, 21-12 for his place in the last eight.
Former world number one Lee has made a strong return to the badminton circuit after an eight-month doping this year, silencing those sceptical of the veteran’s chances to qualify for the Olympics to fight for a so-far elusive gold medal.
China’s Tian Houwei also went through when he beat defending champion Son Wan-Ho of South Korea 21-13, 21-17.
In the women’s competition, world number one Carolina Marin of Spain downed Japanese rising star Akane Yamaguchi 21-19, 21-8 to reach the last eight.
“She is a good player. It was a tough match. She always fights until the shuttle is on the floor. So that’s why the first set was very close,” Marin said of her teenage opponent, who is tipped as a strong prospect on the women’s circuit in coming years.