Lee keen on last-ditch bid to Thwart Lin

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia is determined to take part in the All England Open, which starts today. He and traditional arch-rival Lin Dan are on opposite sides of the draw and a dream final between the two would be their 38th meeting.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia is determined to take part in the All England Open, which starts today. He and traditional arch-rival Lin Dan are on opposite sides of the draw and a dream final between the two would be their 38th meeting.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Lee Chong Wei appears to have won his race against time to make an against-the-odds bid for another title in the last All England Open of his career this week.

It seemed that badminton's world No. 1 might be denied a farewell at the famous tournament, following early prognoses on knee ligament damage which suggested he could be out for several weeks.

But Lee's name is on the schedule for today's first-round matches and the Malaysian is determined to take part in what will almost certainly be his last appearance at the world's oldest tournament.

It means that Lee, three times an Olympic silver medallist, and Lin Dan, three times an Olympic champion, may yet star together in a last episode of the sport's most famous rivalry - long after it seemed over.

The light-footed Malaysian and the charismatic Chinese left-hander are in opposite halves of the draw, which means Sunday's final could produce their 38th encounter.

Lin and Lee both spoke about saying goodbye before the 2012 Olympics in London, but after playing an epic final against each other, both changed their minds and soldiered on through injury-troubled years until the 2016 Games in Rio.

Farewells will certainly be said at this venue - and possibly to each other.

Lin has avoided responding to the continual retirement gossip but Lee has suggested that he will not play another All England. "I am ready for it (retirement)," he said. "And I really want to go."

Though he may be trying to battle on till August, and attempting to win another title to have narrowly eluded him - the World Championships - Lee will surely not continue beyond that.

Lin's motives for hanging on are less clear but are probably related to his still being the sport's biggest draw, and the financial incentives that offers.

He could win the All England Open a seventh time, though he is seeded only sixth after losing to Lee at the Olympics and then not competing for six months.

Lee, by contrast, has remained world No. 1, but faces a tricky opener against Brice Leverdez, if the world No. 36 from France survives the qualifiers.

The Malaysian could progress to a semi-final with China's Chen Long, who is seeded fourth after competing only once since claiming the Olympic title.

Lin might have a quarter-final with Viktor Axelsen, the third-seeded World Super Series Finals winner, with a probable reward for victory being another Danish opponent, second seed Jan Jorgensen.

If Lin does reach a final against Lee, he will be seeking a 26th victory against his long-time rival, to whom he has lost only 12 times.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Lee keen on last-ditch bid to Thwart Lin'. Print Edition | Subscribe