Tuesday 22 August 2017
Lin Dan’s bid for a sixth TOTAL BWF World Championship crown is still alive, but he was forced to battle beyond a resurgent fightback from home hero Kieran Merrilees in Glasgow.
On very few occasions has the Chinese superstar been second favourite to a crowd, but that was exactly what was presented to him on day one in the Emirates Arena.
But when you already have five world titles to your name, that matters very little, as Lin showed with a 21-15 21-10 win.
The double Olympic champion had also been 11-1 up as Merrilees felt the nerves in the first set, though he was forced to work hard to get over the line – a winning post which he was relieved to reach, as focus ramps up for the potential sixth title he is gunning for.
“This is the first match and normally the first match is not easy, because I need to get myself in a good mindset,” he said.
“This was a very important match so I did a lot of practice and preparation, so I need to make this mindset last until the end of the championships.
“Kieran played his very best and it was important for him to do that today in front of the Scottish fans.
“I haven’t thought much about becoming World champion again, I will just try to do my best.”
Lin may be seeded seventh for the competition, but men’s singles tournament favourite Son Wan Ho ensured he was not to be the victim of an early shock, beating Kalle Koljonen 21-14 21-16.
The South Korean has yet to taste World Championship glory, and had a stern opening test having been locked at 11-11 in the first set.
And having opened up an eight-point lead in the second, Son had to hold his own having been hauled back, taking his place in the next round in Glasgow.
He’ll be joined there by Kidambi Srikanth, who needed less than 30 minutes to knock out Russia’s Sergey Sirant.
The 21-13 21-12 scoreline was demonstrative of his play, leading almost for the entirety of the match prior to closing out the victory.
While the top 16 women’s singles seeds received byes in the first round, there was undoubtedly a very happy return for Michelle Li.
The Canadian picked up a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Glasgow three years ago, coming back to play in the very same Emirates Arena in which her crowning moment came.
The form continued too, defeating Linda Zetchiri in three sets, though she had to come from behind in order to prevail in an epic lasting just one minute shy of an hour.
“That was probably not my best performance, it’s one of those days where everything was just more tough so it was great to pull through," she said.
“It feels great to be back where I won Commonwealth gold, I had a bit of nostalgia when I walked in, but I’m glad I pulled off the first win.
“The feeling on court is a little different than I remember, but I’ve had great memories here and I hope I can continue that.
“I was able to win the gold medal and I upset PV Sindhu from India and I was able to continue that performance in the final against Kirsty Gilmour.
“It would mean a lot to get the world title because it would make history, no one’s ever done that from Canada.”
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Article and film by Sportsbeat.
History was made on finals day at the TOTAL BWF World Championships as Viktor Axelsen became the first European player to win men’s singles gold in 20 years.