DUBAI • World champion Chen Long began his defence of the title at badminton's Superseries Finals in Dubai yesterday with performances on and off court that helped make up for the absence of his legendary compatriot Lin Dan.
He delivered a composed and versatile performance in a 21-13, 21-13 victory over countryman Tian Houwei and handled yet another of the many questions referring to missing Olympic champion Lin with diplomatic good humour.
The basis of Chen's victory over Tian, Lin's late replacement, included confidence in coping with the slightly drifty conditions at the large Hamdan Stadium and a relaxed willingness to accept whatever the outcome, a relatively new psychological skill for him.
Chen has become very much his own man now, and he was prepared to answer whether he thought Lin would be missed.
"Don't say that - Lin Dan won't be happy with it," he said, elaborating by adding "every athlete sometimes doesn't feel well".
Actually Chen admitted to being not in the best shape himself after a hard year of touring, and was critical of his performance.
NOT STRESSED OUT
I'm expected to win but I don't feel pressure. There are only two possible results, and I have the confidence to accept failure if I lose.
CHEN LONG, on how he views a loss
It was not a great match, he thought - though it was notable that he usually took sequences of points when he needed them against a younger and ambitious opponent.
"I'm expected to win but I don't feel pressure," he said, concluding with a dash of wisdom. "There are only two possible results, and I have the confidence to accept failure if I lose."
Refusal to accept failure characterised the performance of Ratchanok Intanon, the 20-year-old former world champion from Thailand, who stunningly saved four match points in a 19-21, 23-21, 21-14 victory over Sung Ji Hyun, the world No. 4 from South Korea.
Earlier the other world No. 1, Carolina Marin, had to come from behind in the first game before starting impressively with a 21-16, 21-9 win over Tai Tzu Ying, the women's singles Superseries titleholder from Chinese Taipei.
WORLD SUPERSERIES FINALS
Round robin: StarHub Ch201, 5pm