China's Chen avoids shock exit, Lin struggles through

Wed Mar 4, 2015 5:21pm EST
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By Rod Gilmour

BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - World champion Chen Long avoided a potential first-round exit at the All-England Championships on Wednesday and blamed an uncomfortable pillow for a sluggish start to his campaign.

Five-times winner Lin Dan of China admitted he was not contemplating a sixth title after a hard-fought 21-14 12-21 21-16 victory over Wei Nan of Hong Kong.

Chen, the world number one and top seed, woke up with a muscle spasm in his neck, putting the issue down to a softhotel pillow.

He had worn a plaster to ease a sore neck and his uncomfortable sleep nearly proved costly as fellow countryman Xue Song raced away with the first game 21-12.

A big upset looked on the cards as Chen stretched tiredly to net at 16-16 in the second before the 2013 champion rattled off three points in a row to set up a decider.

Chen’s forehand smash was prominent thereafter and he comfortably took the third 21-9, setting up a last-16 clash with Hsu Jen Hao of Chinese Taipei.

“I started really slow and I wasn’t in the best of form out there,” Chen told reporters.

“I needed to play quick and attack more, play rally-to-rally and not think about the result. I kept my consistency and tried to control him by not doing anything too risky.” Chen’s female compatriot Li Xuerui, also world number one, had earlier stepped through the gears in her opening match.   Continued...