The Birmingham Arena is set to witness yet another legendary clash this year as defending champion Lee Chong Wei takes on old nemesis Lin Dan of China in the quarter-finals of the All England Open on Friday.
The apparently ageless players have been drawn to meet for the 40th time in a Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament and in what may be the duo's last All England, this particular tie holds a lot of importance for both the shuttlers.
The duo have been involved in a total of 21 of energy-sapping tournament finals, which includes two Olympic, two World Badminton Championships, one Asian Games, one Badminton Asia Championships and four All England finals in which almost all matches were hard-fought, three-game thrillers.
Lee is the top-seeded player in the men's section following the withdrawal of World No 1 Viktor Axelsen, the world champion from Denmark, who had an operation on an ankle that he injured last month at the Indonesian Masters.
Although Lin is seeded only sixth, he has won 27 of his memorable encounters with Lee, and holds six All England men's singles titles to Lee's four. A seventh would put the Chinese legend close to the all-time record of eight won by Indonesia's Rudy Hartono in the 1960s and 1970s, when the tournament was the unofficial World Championships. On the other hand, if Lee manages to lift a fifth title, he will have more than any other Malaysian, overtaking two greats of the 1950s, Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong.
Talking about the form of both the shuttlers, Lin may not be consistent these days but against Lee, the versatile left-hander from China has managed to up his game on multiple occasions. The two-time Olympic gold medallist is still capable of challenging for major titles, as shown by his run to the World Badminton Championships final in Glasgow back in August. As far as Lee is concerned, the right-handed Malaysian ace won the Hong Kong Open, but lost to Axelsen twice in the finals of Japan Open and Dubai World Superseries Finals last year.
However, Lin knows a thing or two about Lee, who almost bid farewell to the 118-year-old tournament last year, but changed his mind after regaining the All England title. The Malaysian defeated Shi Yuqi, another Chinese player, in the final and that is when the 35-year-old announced that he would return for the 14th visit to his favourite tournament.
On Thursday, the Malaysian survived a scare in the last-16 as he was made to battle all the way before scoring a 21-6,13-21, 21-18 win against South Korea’s Lee Dong Keun. Lin too had some difficult moments before winning 21-13, 23-21 against Taiwan’s Wang Tzu Wei.
The last time the two greats met was at the Badminton Asia Championships last year, where the Chinese ace wrapped up the match in straight games 21-13, 21-15.
“I don’t think there is another pair of opponents who have played against each other so many times. Tomorrow I will try my best to beat him,” said a determined Lin who holds an imposing 27-12 advantage in their head-to-head record.
Lee, aged 35, is also relishing the mammoth showdown. He declared: “I can see it being a great match between me and Lin Dan. I hope I can play well and enjoy it.”
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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2018 18:32:08 IST