HONG KONG (AFP) - Chinese badminton legend Lin Dan has dominated badminton for over a decade but, after another early exit in Hong Kong, the five-time world champion hinted that the "burden of fame" may be becoming too much.
Nicknamed "Super Dan" in 2004 by now-retired Danish star Peter Gade, the Chinese shuttler remains the only singles player to have scooped all nine major titles and has two Olympic golds to his name.
Lin is firmly established as one of the true greats of the sport, but he has had a choppy year taking just one Super Series title, in Japan in September.
Now the 32-year-old veteran will face questions about his Olympic title defence in Rio de Janeiro next year as a host of challengers line up to take him down.
Lin exited the Hong Kong Open in the second round on Thursday at the hands of little-known home-town player Angus Ng - the third time in as many months that he has fallen in the first two rounds of a big tournament.
The former long-time world No. 1, who is now ranked third, also made unexpectedly heavy work of his first round match in Hong Kong against Ihsan Maulana Mustofa of Indonesia, taking over an hour to dismiss the qualifier 21-17, 15-21, 21-14.
After that match, Lin, who is the centre of attention wherever he plays, hinted he was feeling the pressure of continuously performing at the top of the game.
"The younger players don't have any burden of fame. They can just play more free," he said.