JAKARTA • The old rivalry between badminton superstars Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan resurfaced at the World Championships in Jakarta yesterday, with both players raising the prospect of a semi-final showdown.
Lee, a former world No. 1 who returned to badminton only in May after an eight-month ban for doping, looked imperious as he swept aside Lithuania's Kestutis Navickas 21-9, 21-13 in his opening match.
His arch-rival Lin, a two-time Olympic champion, began his campaign for a sixth world crown in similar fashion, demolishing American Sattawat Pongnairat 21-8, 21-11.
The pair are long-running foes, with China's Lin denying Malaysia's Lee gold in two World Championships and back-to-back Olympics in 2008 and 2012.
Fans are savouring the possibility the veterans could clash in a semi-final sizzler in Jakarta.
"I am aware a great many people are waiting for us to duel. Certainly I will give my best performance if this occurs, Lee, 32, said. "This could be our last game, because maybe next year we will retire."
Lin said Lee's strong return - the Malaysian won back-to-back United States and Canada Open titles this season - would make the competition "increasingly fierce" and relished the chance for a rematch.
"Especially if you consider our age, we've had few opportunities to play," Lin, 31, said. "I would love if we could play again."
The fifth seed is expected to cruise through his next match against Brazil's Daniel Paiola but Lee - who is unseeded at the World Championships for the first time in years - must navigate his way past 12th seed German Marc Zwiebler.
Women's top seed Carolina Marin, who nearly pulled out of the tournament because of injury, had a scare as she embarked on the defence of her title.
The world No. 1 lost her first game against Malaysia's Tee Jing Yi, before finding her feet and delivering some blistering smashes to win the match 19-21, 21-14, 21-13.
"At the beginning I was a little bit nervous," said the Spaniard.
Others could not control the jitters, with women's ninth seed Nozomi Okuhara going down to unseeded Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, while Chinese Taipei's Pai Yu-po knocked out Indonesia's 16th seed Maria Febe Kusumastuti.
Third seed Li Xuerui breezed into the third round with a 21-10, 21-11 drubbing of Bulgaria's Petya Nedelcheva.
Other top women's players including Wang Shixian, P.V. Sindhu, Busanan Ongbumrungpan and Sung Ji Hyun also booked places in the round of 16.
Seeded men shuttlers Srikanth Kidambi, Hu Yun and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus progressed to the round of 32, with Danish second seed Jan Jorgensen beating Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana 21-9, 21-19.
In the morning, Israel's Misha Zilberman blamed an immigration saga for his early departure from the tournament. He was granted a visa only after the head of Badminton World Federation intervened, but the shuttler said the disruption to his training caused his 21-14, 21-14 drubbing at the hands of Taiwanese Hsu Jen-hao.
In the mixed doubles, Danish fifth seeds Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen beat Singapore pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo 21-19, 21-12.
Singapore's Derek Wong has a quick reunion this morning with Thai Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, who beat him in the SEA Games quarter-finals just two months ago.
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