Another apology from Lin Dan
Chinese badminton legend ended his last Singapore Open with an apology and began this one the same way
In his last appearance here in 2011, China's Lin Dan issued a series of apologies after he had conceded the Singapore Open men's singles final to teammate Chen Jin, after apparently suffering from a stomach upset.
Five years on, the badminton star marked his return with an apology.
The world No. 3 and his world No. 1 compatriot Chen Long addressed the media yesterday, ahead of their opening round matches at the OUE Singapore Open, and the mood was distinctly lighter.
Lin apologised for the change in the timing of the media conference, which was held two hours later than scheduled, explaining they had to fit in a training session.
The five-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist was at his charming best, delivering cheeky responses and smooth answers while evading questions about succession in the Chinese men's team, and his latest training routine.
"I've always seen myself as a young player, so along with the likes of (younger teammate) Xue Song, I am working hard," said the 32-year-old to much laughter.
Considered one of the game's all-time greats, "Super Dan" took a break from badminton after winning his second Olympic gold in London 2012, but he could not walk away from the sport he loves for good.
"I still love the sport a lot, so even though the pressure is high, I chose not to leave on a high," he said, in one of his more serious moments.
"I am willing to accept new challenges, and even self-doubt when I'm not performing well.
"The 2020 Olympics is too far away, but I want to take on one more Olympic campaign and keep on contributing to the sport as long as I am healthy."
While powerhouse China swept all five golds on offer at the 2012 Olympics, their shuttlers have looked vulnerable since, with the likes of Japan and South Korea emerging as strong challengers.
World No. 2 Kento Momota has been leading the charge and was a serious contender for men's singles gold at the Rio Olympics in August before he and teammate Kenichi Tago became embroiled in an illegal betting scandal last week.
Both shuttlers have been banned by the Nippon Badminton Association and are seemingly out of the Rio Games, but both Lin and Chen insisted that the Chinese won't be strolling to the top of the podium in Brazil.
"Other than Japan, countries like Denmark, Indonesia, South Korea and Germany are still strong," said Chen, 27, who curiously neglected mentioning Malaysia's world No. 4, Lee Chong Wei.
Perhaps the memory of last Sunday's resounding defeat by Lee in the Malaysia Open final - the Chinese was blitzed 21-13, 21-8 - still hurt badly, but Chen added: "It's not as if the title is ours because two players are not going to be around.
"We will maintain our focus and do our best, and we believe we will have the desired outcome."
Lin added: "China have won the most number of men's singles titles at the Olympics (three in six editions) and this is something that the team are very proud of.
"But now the bar has been raised, a player from any country can win and it's everyone's dream.
"We are not going to calculate the probability of us winning; we will just do our best and the outcome we want will come naturally."
MEN'S SINGLES: Lin Yu-hsien (TPE) bt Derek Wong (SIN) 21-14, 21-16, Sony Dwi Kuncoro (INA) bt Loh Kean Yew (SIN) 21-18, 21-16
WOMEN'S SINGLES: Grace Chua (SIN) bt Petya Nedelcheva (BUL) 17-21, 21-9, 21-16, Petya Nedelcheva (BUL) bt Ren-Ne Ong (SIN) 21-14, 21-10, Susanto Yulia Yosephin (INA) bt Deline Quek (SIN) 21-9, 21-11, Lyanny Alessandra Mainaky (INA) bt Tan Ai Ninna (SIN) 21-7, 24-22
MEN'S DOUBLES: Liao Kuan-hao/Lu Chia-pin (TPE) bt Bimo Adi Prakoso/Jason Wong (SIN) 21-8, 21-11, Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Hendra Wijaya (SIN) bt Arya Maulana Adiartama/Afiat Yuris Wirawan (INA) 21-13, 21-11
MIXED DOUBLES: Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Nelakurihi Sikki Reddy (IND) bt Bimo Adi Prakoso/Citra Dewi Sari (SIN) 21-13, 21-10, Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Nelakurihi Sikki Reddy (IND) bt Jason Wong/Elaine Chua (SIN) 21-15, 21-11, Jacco Arends/Selena Piek (HOL) bt Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Vanessa Neo (SIN) 21-12, 21-13, Terry Hee/Tan Wei Han (SIN) bt Choi Sol Gyu/ Eom Hye Won (KOR)
WHAT'S ON (SELECTED)
MEN'S SINGLES: Ihsan Maulana Mustofa (INA) v Lin Dan (CHN), Chen Long (CHN) v H S Prannoy (IND), Viktor Axelsen (DEN) v Wei Nan (HKG), Boonsak Ponsana (THA) v Lin Yu-hsien (TPE), Ajay Jayaram (IND) v Marc Zwiebler (GER)
WOMEN'S SINGLES: Carolina Marin (SPA) v Lindaweni Fanetri (INA), Ratchanok Intanon (THA) v Cheung Ngan Yi (HKG), Wang Yihan (CHN) v Bae Yeon Ju (KOR), Grace Chua (SIN) v Sayaka Sato (JPN), Liang Xiaoyu (SIN) v Sun Yu (CHN)
MEN'S DOUBLES: Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) Lee Jhe-huei/Lee Yang (TPE), Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Hendra Wijaya (SIN) v Tai An Khang/Hong Kheng Yew (MAS), Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong (MAS) v Cai Biao/Hong Wei (CHN)
WOMEN'S DOUBLES: Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa (IND) v Go Ah Ra/Yoo Hae Won (KOR), Elaine Chua/Citra Dewi Sari (SIN) v Misaki Matustomo/Ayaka Takahashi (JPN), Jin Yujia/Crystal Wong (SIN) v Chang Hsin-tien/Hu Ling-fang (TPE), Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei (CHN) v Ching Hsu-ya/Po Pai-yu (TPE)