RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Twice-Olympic champion Lin Dan survived a huge scare against India’s Kidambi Srikanth in the men’s badminton singles in Rio on Wednesday to set up a semi-final with Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, the man he beat for the gold medal in Beijing and London.
China’s Lin, bidding for an unprecedented third successive title, was pushed to the limit in the 68-minute battle with world number 11 Srikanth but ratcheted up the pressure in the deciding game to close out the match 21-6 11-21 21-18 at the Riocentro.
Top seed Lee had a far easier run against Chou Tien-chen in the opening match and was never seriously tested by the seventh-ranked Taiwanese during a 21-9 21-15 demolition.
Third-ranked Lin’s seeding put him in Lee’s side of the draw, denying fans another battle royale in the gold medal-decider but Friday’s semi-final will pit two of the finest players of the modern era against each other in their Olympic swan song.
Thirty three year-old Lee has beaten Lin in their past two meetings but has only tasted heartbreak in big tournaments against his Olympic nemesis.
The Chinese dashed Lee’s hopes of a first gold in his final Asian Games at Incheon in 2014 and denied him twice in the final at the 2011 and 2013 world championships.
“The last big tournament we played was the 2014 Asian Games,” Lin told reporters.
“We’ve played in tournaments since but the Olympic arena is a bit different.”
“However you look at it, it’s a match-up between two players. We’ve all been working really hard these four years and are again at the Olympics, in a semi-final no less,” he added.
“At least it proves that we two 33-year-old athletes can still compete at a high level.”
Lee, the world number one for much of his career, has been under huge pressure to deliver Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal and the mere mention of Lin’s name was enough for him to cut the post-match interviews short.
“(Being) number one is more pressure,” Lee said.
”All the way through this tournament a lot of top players have lost so I must be very careful and just enjoy the match.
“I just focused on my condition and my match and I don’t think so much about a semi-final against Lin Dan.”
China’s twice world champion Chen Long edged South Korea’s Son Wan-ho 21-11 18-21 21-11 and will meet Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the other semi-final on Friday.
Fourth seed Axelsen was too strong for Britain’s Rajiv Ouseph, winning 21-12 21-16 in the late quarter-final.
Editing by Neville Dalton and Nina Chestney