'Little Coffee' boost for Chen

Above: China's Chen Yufei already has a title this year after winning the Malaysia Masters earlier this month. Left: World No. 4 Chen Long competing at the BWF World Tour Finals last December. The 31-year-old says his son motivates him to keep playin
World No. 4 Chen Long competing at the BWF World Tour Finals last December. The 31-year-old says his son motivates him to keep playing the sport. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: China's Chen Yufei already has a title this year after winning the Malaysia Masters earlier this month. Left: World No. 4 Chen Long competing at the BWF World Tour Finals last December. The 31-year-old says his son motivates him to keep playin
China's Chen Yufei already has a title this year after winning the Malaysia Masters earlier this month. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

New dad Chen Long believes S'pore Open will help him in his bid to retain Olympic gold

These days, Olympic badminton champion Chen Long cannot do without his daily dose of caffeine.

Married to former women's singles No. 1 Wang Shixian, Chen became a father for the first time last June. And "Little Coffee" is the nickname of the little bundle of joy that is his new motivation.

World No. 4 Chen, who turned 31 last Saturday, headlines a list of 42 China shuttlers who are bound for the April 7-12 Singapore Badminton Open.

He said in a statement yesterday: "I have gone through many changes in 2019, such as becoming a father. The new experience has played a huge part in making me stronger mentally and I'll look to bring that to my game. I'm a very happy father. If I'm not in Beijing, I will video call my son every day.

"This is what I enjoy and what keeps me going in my career now."

With two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, 36, in decline, 2018 All England winner Shi Yuqi injured, and his younger compatriots failing to step up, Chen is China's best shot at retaining the gold medal at Tokyo 2020.

While he did not start last season well, being the only Chinese player to lose a match in the Sudirman Cup in May, he reached four finals and won the French Open.

Chen, the 2014 and 2015 world champion, said: "My goal for 2020 is still the same, which is to firstly qualify for the Olympics and then to retain my title. I know it will be a huge challenge and every tournament, such as the Singapore Open, will give me the practice I need to get to that end goal."

Compatriot Lin has also confirmed his attendance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, as has women's world No. 1 Chen Yufei.

She won the Malaysia Masters earlier this month, beating No. 2 Tai Tzu-ying, who is also the defending champion in Singapore.

The 21-year-old said: "In the past, I have always hoped for a good draw. But now, I have learnt to be confident and fearless about any opponent that I'm going to face."

FATHER FIGURE

I have gone through many changes in 2019, such as becoming a father. The new experience has played a huge part in making me stronger mentally and I'll look to bring that to my game.

CHEN LONG, reigning Olympic champion, on how being a new dad has helped his game.

DRAWING ON CONFIDENCE

In the past, I have always hoped for a good draw. But now, I have learnt to be confident and fearless about any opponent that I'm going to face.

CHEN YUFEI, women's world No. 1, on how her mindset has changed.

The Singapore Open is expected to attract a strong field, who will use it as part of the preparations for the Olympics competition from July 25-Aug 3 in Tokyo.

It remains to be seen whether world No. 1 Kento Momota, the favourite to win Olympic gold, will defend his Singapore title.

The Japanese, 25, was involved in a car accident after winning the Malaysia Masters and is reportedly recovering from a broken nose.

•Singapore Open early bird tickets are available until Feb 16 through www.apactix.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2020, with the headline ''Little coffee' boost for chen'. Print Edition | Subscribe