Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan (right) in a file photo. The long-time rivals will be pairing up to play as a doubles pair against Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China in an exhibition match.
KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei has always stood across the net from Lin Dan of China but come Sunday, the two greatest players will do the unthinkable – team up in the men’s doubles event in the name of sports promotion.
On Monday, Chong Wei said that he was looking forward to the prospect of playing alongside Lin Dan in an exhibition match on Feb 16 in Lingshui, China, in conjunction with the opening of a new national training centre in the province.
And to make it even more mouth-watering, the duo will take on five-time world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China.
It is the first time that Lin Dan will be making his appearance in front of his fans after having beaten Chong Wei in the final of the World Championships in Guangzhou last August.
“I received an invitation from China’s chief coach Li Yongbo to take part in this exhibition match. I was surprised that he wanted me to play with Lin Dan in the doubles .... I have not played doubles before but this is a good idea to promote the game and will be good for the sport,” said the 31-year-old Chong Wei.
“Initially, Lin Dan and I were to take on Cai Yun and Chen Long but unfortunately, Chen Long could not make it. Now, we will be facing Cai Yun-Haifeng (the four-time world champions).
“There are three Chinese players and one Malaysian in this exhibition match and it is an honour. I will do whatever I can to promote the sport wherever possible.
“Maybe, the experience of playing in an exhibition match like this will get me excited and I may reconsider any plan I have of retiring from the sport,” he said with a smile.
Chong Wei noted that China’s training centres were mushrooming but in Malaysia, the nation still did not have one that they can proudly call their own. In fact, some training centres in the states are in deplorable condition.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have planned to set up a new state-of-the-art training centre for some time now but it still remains a grand scheme on paper.
When asked to comment on Lin Dan’s return to the competitive scene after six months away and a possibility of both crossing swords at the World Championships in Copenhagen in August, surprisingly, Chong Wei’s face lit up.
“I heard that he is coming back in March. I think it is good for the sport. I will be ready for him. I will train harder and prepare better to face him. Lin Dan is a great and strong player.”
While Chong Wei will be battling for honours in the All-England from March 4-9 in Birmingham, there is a strong probability for the world No. 104th Lin Dan to make a return at the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold from March 11-16 and even at the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold in Johor Baru from March 25-30.
He may also compete in the two Superseries in India and Singapore in his bid to win quick ranking points to boost his world ranking before the qualifying period ends in May.
Meanwhile, Chong Wei was happy that his team, Musica Flypower Champion, defended their title in the Indonesia Super League (ISL) in Surabaya on Sunday. Chong Wei had played twice during the group ties.
“At first, I had no plans to play in ISL because I wanted to spend my first Chinese New Year with my wife (Wong Mew Choo) and my son. But the owner of the club is a good friend of mine and after much coaxing, I relented. He told me to play for fun but how can I play for fun?
“I resumed training on the second day of Chinese New Year to prepare for the league although I committed to play in two group ties ... it was a small sacrifice from my side to just promote the game,” added Chong Wei.