Saturday, November 13, 2010

Asian Games: World's best enjoy contrasting fortunes

GUANGZHOU, China - World number one Lee Chong Wei got his Asian Games off to the worst possible start on Saturday by suffering a shock defeat, but it was plain sailing for arch-rival Lin Dan.

Lee, who admits he is not fully fit after an ankle injury, lost to Thailand's world number six Boonsak Ponsana in three sets in the quarter-finals of the men's team event in Guangzhou.

The surprise 21-9, 10-21, 19-21 defeat only heightens fears that the 28-year-old Malaysian's Games could be ruined by injury.

"We felt bad after Lee's loss," said Koo Kien Keat, who together with Tan Boon Heong defeated Thailand's Sudket Prapakamol and Songphon Anugritayawon.

"We knew that we had to work harder and focus on our own game because if we couldn't win, we'd lose the chance to advance to the next round."

There was no such drama for China's Lin, widely regarded as the best player ever, who strolled to a 21-15, 21-17 victory over Hong Kong's Hu Yun in the team quarters.

"It was my first match and the first game is never easy," said Lin, who has won every major title except an Asian Games singles gold.

"I believe I can get into better condition in the upcoming matches," added the 27-year-old, who has been trying to play down expectations that he will steamroller to the gold -- particularly if his main rival is struggling.

The Chinese have enjoyed another hugely successful year on the badminton circuit and some expect them to perform an Asian Games clean-sweep.

"All the men's teams participating in the event are very strong," insisted Lin after China marched into the semi-finals.

"There are no big differences in playing ability between us and the other teams. I think we will have quite a tough journey."

In the women's team event, India's world number three Saina Nehwal powered to a winning start, beating Indonesia's Adriyanti Firdasari.

Nehwal, who captured gold in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of her home Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last month, won her match 21-16, 21-17, but it was not enough to prevent India going down 3-2 overall.

"I don't want to think much about it," said the 20-year-old from Hyderabad, looking ahead to the singles action, where she is one of the favourites to take gold.

"I just want to take one game at a time and do my best."

Nehwal was the first Indian woman to win a Super Series title and the first ever to climb as high as she has in the world.

- AFP/ir

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