Defending champion Chen Long of China needed three sets to beat Viktor Axelsen in the first round of the All-England badminton championship on Wednesday. - AFP
BIRMINGHAM: World No. 2 and defending champion Chen Long is Lee Chong Wei’s biggest threat at the All-England.
And he believes that he is ready to thwart Chong Wei once more ... once he gets his game going.
The 25-year-old Chen Long was nearly sent packing in the first round on a day of upsets after former world junior champion Viktor Axelsen magnificently rose to the challenge.
Axelsen displayed incredible attacking prowess on court to take the first game 21-10, only for Chen Long to rebound in style to win the next two 21-15, 21-12.
Despite the close shave, Chen Long who also won the Korean Open in January, believes that he can still raise his game in the later stages.
“I thought Viktor played very well in the first game and I wasn’t very good on court either,” said the Jingzhou native.
“As a player, I can accept defeats because that is part of the process ... even if it’s the first round.
“What I can’t accept is losing with a poor performance because that would make me annoyed. And the thought of that just got me back on my feet.”
Chen Long also shrugged off the notion that being the defending champion at the All-England heaps pressure on him ... especially with several seeded players also biting the dust.
“This tournament is an old and prestigious tournament and it has a lot of colour and character to it. Thus, it is not that surprising for a seeded player to lose early,” said Chen Long.
“After all, this is a big tournament and everyone here is a top player.
“As for myself ... I would say that I’m definitely hoping for another good run.
‘It’s better to focus on one match at a time, but I believe with everyone, the Chinese supporters and the local crowd, supporting me, I can bring home more positive results.”
Chen Long will take on Japan’s Takuma Ueda in the second round late Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the men’s singles challenge has been thrown wide open after third seed Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia), fourth seed Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark), seventh seed Du Pengyu (China) and eighth seed Nguyen Tien Minh (Vietnam) all suffered first round exits.