INCHEON (AFP) – Badminton giants Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei eased through their first matches in Incheon on Sunday, helping set up a China vs Malaysia men’s team showdown.
China dispatched Hong Kong 3-0 in their quarter-final and Malaysia also beat Nepal to nil, meaning the two great powers will meet in the men’s team semi-finals on Monday.
But Lin and Lee will not face each other in the team contest, where players are matched according to their world ranking.
In his last ever Asian Games, Malaysian world number one Lee will take on top-ranked Chinese player Chen Long, who denied him in last month’s world championships final.
Chinese idol Lin, 30, is ranked 15th as he picks and chooses competitions these days, so will face a lower order Malaysian player.
As fans hope for a Lin-Lee classic in the individual, competition all eyes will be on the singles draw.
Lin has repeatedly denied 31-year-old Lee gold in major tournaments, including the Asian Games, the Olympics and world championships.
But Lee remained philosophical about the pressure on him to dispel his reputation for falling at the final hurdle.
“It doesn’t upset me (that people say I don’t win major tournaments). It’s different in other countries because in China there are a lot of people (players). In Malaysia I’m alone, so it’s very tough for me,” he told AFP.
Lee breezed through his team match against Nepal’s Ratna Jit Tamang winning 21-10 21-13.
But he slammed the court conditions, saying that the lights were too bright and causing problems for players.
“This was my first match and I just wanted to try out how I felt,” Lee told AFP.
“I think this court is very bad for me because the light is not so good.
“Normally there are only lights side to side (at either end), but here you have them all around so you are looking into the light. I think it’s tough for all the players.” Speaking briefly through a translator after beating Hong Kong’s Vincent Wong 21-8 21-15, Lin Dan said the court was designed for volleyball, not badminton.
“But the conditions are not a problem for me. It’s the same for everybody,” he said.
Despite his complaint about the lighting, the usually taciturn Lee seemed more relaxed than usual.
“I’m just going to do my best and enjoy my last Asian Games,” he said, hoping that a good performance in the team event would pave the way for a win in the individuals.
For 21-year-old Tamang, who is at his second Asian Games and had never played Lee, it was an unforgettable experience.