Chinese stars off to winning start in the All England first round
World number one Chen Long and Olympic champion Lin Dan gave China an encouraging start to the first Super Series event of 2016.
The two stars have seven All-England titles between them, and revealed some of this vast experience in negotiating early difficulties with cold conditions by winning in straight games against ambitious younger opponents.
Chen won 21-18, 21-12 against Kent Nishikoro, a 21-year-old Japanese who led early on and was still in touch in the middle part of the second game before a little extra pace and variety from the titleholder killed off his challenge.
Lin won 21-17, 21-17 against Lee Dong Keun, a 25-year-old South Korean who turned the match into a good scrap in many long rallies, but found his legendary opponent playing a little better when it mattered.
Lin took five of the last seven points in the first game and the last four points in the second, which gave the score-line a more comfortable look than the match actually had.
"It's going it to be difficult for me," said Lin, who hopes to earn the chance to try for a record third Olympic gold medal in Rio in five months' time.
"There is fierce competition - and within the Chinese team as well." Lin next plays the winner of Sho Sasaki of Japan and Wei Nan of Hongkong.
Chen was bolder in his predictions. "The draw is very tough and challenging, but I am confident I can win (the All-England) again this year," he said. "Sometimes you play thinking it is a bad draw, and you play quite well. It's up to me to fight for it."
He certainly does have a far from easy draw. Chen next plays his compatriot Xue Song, and could go on to face Lin Dan in the semis.
It almost became easier when Viktor Axelsen, Chen's conqueror in the Super Series finals in Dubai in December, was forced to save a match point in the second game before surviving 14-21, 22-20, 22-20 against Brice Leverdez, the 36th-ranked Frenchman. If both win again they will meet again.
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