Lin-Taufik early showdown to be on

(The Star Online)
Updated: 2007-01-17 08:45

KUALA LUMPUR - The challenge for the Malaysian Open men's singles title is set for an explosive start with a Lin Dan-Taufik Hidayat showdown on the cards in the first round at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium today.

The duo have served up classic battles, especially in recent encounters. They have met 11 times and the record favours world champion Lin Dan at 7-4. But Olympic champion Taufik was the winner in the last encounter - the final of the Asian Games in Doha last month.

There will be no love lost between them today. Both have had their share of bad sportsmanship and coming up against each other often brought the best out of both players.

Last year, Lin Dan snubbed the organisers of the Malaysian Open. The Chinese ace stomped out in anger after losing to home player Lee Chong Wei after having taken a seven-point lead at match point.

Taufik, who has had many disputes with his national body in the past, walked out of a quarter-final match against Lin Dan in the Hong Kong Open last year for alleged bad line calls. He was docked world rankings points by the World Badminton Federation (BWF) for his action.

Bad blood reached a boil when the Indonesian branded Lin Dan as arrogant prior to the start of the Doha Asiad. Lin Dan beat Taufik twice in the team event but the Indonesian turned the tables on the Chinese to take the individual gold medal.

The 24-year-old Lin Dan said: I have come here well prepared after the defeat in the Asian Games. I relish playing against Taufik because we will take our game to a higher level and my aim is to beat him here.

"Things have been said about me ... maybe to get me all worked up. I want to stay focused here. But I will not be too troubled if I lose. There will be so many more other opportunities."

Taufik feels that beating Lin Dan for a second consecutive time over a short period would be a difficult task.

"After the Asiad, I have trained only for a week. But I think that I will still be up to the challenge against Lin Dan. But it will be tough.

"He has the better record over me but I have beaten him in all the major tournaments. He is the world number one but I have held that position before. He is the world champion and I have won the world title before."

Taufik said that he preferred to play against top Dane Peter Gade-Christensen or Chong Wei.

"They are friendly players. They give their best on court and maintain a good relationship off-court,"he said.

Taufik said that his main goal this year was to nail the elusive All-England crown in March. He was twice the runner-up in the prestigious tournament.

"It is the only main title that is missing from my collection. I am skipping the Korean Open after this to concentrate on my preparation for the All-England.

"But firstly, I want to get off to a good start,"he said.

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