BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Five-time champion Lin Dan said he had been learning from his younger rivals as the Chinese kept alive his bid for a sixth All-England Championship title on Thursday.
The 31-year-old, who has played irregularly since 2012, showed the mental strength which produced two Olympic titles to secure a 21-15 21-19 last-16 win over compatriot Tian Houwei.
Hard-hitting Tian threw everything at fifth-seeded Lin but could not build on mini-comebacks in each game, including a tenacious set of rallies to level from 14-10 down in the opener.
“To have the correct attitude is crucial when you come up against these talented players,” said Lin, referring to his 23-year-old opponent.
“Being a professional athlete, we all want to win the title. I can also learn from them and I’m more than happy to face the challenges they pose.”
Lin’s last eight opponent is Kento Momota, the Japanese in surprising form this week, who edged past Marc Zwiebler of Germany, a former All-England semi-finalist.
Lin could face a potential semi-final meeting with world champion and holder Chen Long, who had little difficulty dispatching Taiwan’s Jen Hao Hsu 21-7 21-9.
Earlier, Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal saw the women’s singles draw open up to her advantage, but the Indian shuttler will first have to overturn a Chinese hoodoo.
Third seed Nehwal had to show speed, control and variation to see off Taiwan’s Kim Hyo Min 21-15 21-15, setting up a last eight showdown with Wang Yihan, the 2009 All-England champion.
Nehwal has beaten Wang once in nine meetings, her victory coming by virtue of a retirement from the Chinese.
The winner will have an easier path to Sunday’s final after Olympic champion Li Xuerui’s surprise loss to compatriot Sun Yu.
Sun, the world number 18, had never taken a game off top-seeded Li, let alone beaten her, but reveled in a 21-13 21-13 victory. She will next face Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon.
Editing by Ken Ferris