Lin Dan shocks fans with withdrawal
Chinese legend, who appeared angered by umpire's calls, retires from opening match after just 14 minutes
A 4,000-strong crowd waited in anticipation to catch five-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan in action at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.
But all they got were 14 minutes of play in the first set between the Chinese legend and his first-round opponent, world No. 4 Viktor Axelsen, before witnessing a dramatic turn of events.
After conceding a seventh consecutive point to trail 20-13, Lin Dan disputed a line call with umpire Girish Natu. The superstar then clutched his thigh and decided to withdraw from the match, citing injury. The official word was that he suffered spasms in his left thigh.
"I played the whole of last week at the Malaysia Open, which is physically exhausting," the world No. 13 told reporters, referring to his victorious campaign in Kuala Lumpur.
"I have to be more conservative today as the Asian Championships start in about two weeks, followed by the Olympic qualifiers, and I don't wish to injure myself before that."
Axelsen, the tournament's third seed, was not so sure about that, saying that it felt "strange".
Said the Dane: "If he is really injured, then I wish him a speedy recovery, but if he is not injured and it was because of two bad calls, then I feel sorry for our sport and I do not think that is a good way to do it."
When asked about the umpire's decisions , Lin Dan said: "I have nothing much to say about the umpire's decisions. There are always points of contention in every competition but I feel that such a match should have been played on Court 1."
The game was held on Court 4, which is on the side of the stadium. Challenges are allowed only on Court 1.
When asked if he was affected by Lin Dan's behaviour, Axelsen said he was actually relieved that he could conserve energy.
"It does not affect me at all. I am just happy that I did not have to spend so much energy, to be honest," said the 25-year-old, who faces Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the second round today.
Lin Dan dominated from the start and raced to a 6-0 lead, before showing the first signs of frustration when he disagreed with Natu's decision to overrule the line judge and call Axelsen's return in. His lead then evaporated as Axelsen caught up with several smashes.
From 13-13, it all went downhill for Lin Dan as he conceded seven consecutive points. Lin Dan then disputed the umpire's call again.
Showing signs of frustration, he grasped his left thigh before walking up to Natu to shake his hand and indicate his retirement from the match.
This is not the first time he has disappointed fans in Singapore.
At the 2011 Singapore Open final, he conceded a walkover to compatriot Chen Jin, claiming that he had stomach flu.
Not surprisingly, jeers were heard when Lin Dan walked off the court yesterday.
Badminton fan Andersen Hoo was among those who were disappointed.
The 15-year-old, who is home-schooled, had waited since 11am with his mum and siblings to catch the idol in action.
"I was shell-shocked for a few minutes and we didn't know what was going on. But, it did seem like the umpire was rather biased," said Andersen, who added that he did not notice Lin Dan showing signs of injury.
But some fans, like Guo Sikai and his girlfriend Chen Ruo, are still behind Lin Dan. The China nationals, who are both software engineers, were watching the match in celebration of Guo's 26th birthday on Tuesday.
"I understand why Lin Dan is angry. The line judge had pointed that it was out, but the umpire didn't respond to it and didn't allow him to challenge it either," said Chen.
Guo added: "We also saw him tap his leg so it's probably partly because of injury and the poor calls. But we still support him."
Chen, who comes from Chinese province Fujian, the same hometown as Lin Dan, said: "We still love Lin Dan and we are looking forward to seeing him at the Olympics next year."
Men's singles, first round
- Kento Momota (x1) bt Sai Praneeth 19-21, 21-14, 22-20
- Chou Tien-chen (x2) bt T. Saensomboonsuk 21-18, 21-16
- Viktor Axelsen (x3) bt Lin Dan 20-13, retired
- Chen Long (x4) bt Anders Antonsen 21-14, 21-18
- Jonatan Christie bt K. Phetpradab 21-18, 19-21, 21-18
- Lu Guangzu bt Tommy Sugiarto (x8) 21-17, 21-18
Women's singles, first round
- Tai Tzu-ying (x1) bt Zhang Beiwen 21-14, 10-21, 21-18
- Nozomi Okuhara (x2) bt E. Kosetskaya 21-13, 21-9
- Akane Yamaguchi (x3) bt Aya Ohori 19-21, 21-14, 21-13
- Grace Chua bt Disha Gupta 21-19, 21-10
- Ruselli Hartawan bt Yeo Jia Min 21-18, 17-21, 21-15
* Seedings in brackets
** Tickets: Available via apactix.com and sportshubtix