World number one Chen Long said Sunday he hopes to clinch a second straight badminton world crown in Indonesia next week, but women’s defending champion Carolina Marin is less confident after returning from injury just a fortnight ago.
Chen, 26, is in superb form having swept four titles this year and enters the Jakarta tournament a convincing top seed, with Danish star Jan O. Jorgensen a distant second.
The Chinese shuttler has been laying solid groundwork for another gold medal since defeating Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in Copenhagen last year to snag his first world title.
“It just gave me really a lot of confidence,” Chen, speaking via a translator, told reporters in Jakarta.
“I really hope to get my second singles world championship this year.”
He won’t cross top rivals Lee or fellow countryman Lin Dan in the early stages -– they are in different halves of the draw -– and is expected to cruise to the quarter-finals without incident.
But from there things could get trickier for the Chinese star, whose impressive streak this season has been marred by a series of shock defeats.
The last time Chen played before a packed stadium in Jakarta in June, the top seed cracked in the quarter finals, a scenario he doesn’t want repeated when he returns to the venue this week.
“The hall is very crowded, and very noisy, which sometimes creates pressure for us,” he said.
“I just want to be stable, and play every match my best.”
– Injury concerns –
Women’s top seed Marin had vowed to defend her title in Indonesia but almost missed badminton’s most prestigious event entirely after suffering a foot injury a month ago.
The Spaniard, who has won three titles already this season, insists winning is no longer her focus in Jakarta, adding she is grateful to be competing at all.
“Now my focus is on my first match,” she said.
It’s not the first time the 22-year-old has been plagued by injury troubles, with a recurring knee problem forcing her out of past competitions and complicating others.
The world number one also complained of fatigue and pain following her shock exit from the Indonesian Open in June in the opening round.
But despite downgrading expectations in Jakarta, Marin claims she has bounced back to top form, suggesting her ambitions for back-to-back titles are far from vanquished.
“When I went on the court again, I felt better than before,” she said.
Local favourite Tommy Sugiarto will have the crowd on his side when he steps out Monday for a first round showdown against European Games victor Pablo Abian.
But the 15th seed could be feeling the pressure as Indonesia’s top medal hopeful, playing down expectations on the eve of his opening match.
“Actually for this world championship, it’s quite hard to win,” he said.
“All I can now is take it step by step and focus on every single match.”
He’s not the only seeded player denied a bye in the opening round, with Jorgensen facing Thai shuttler Boonsak Ponsana at the outset and fourth-seed Kento Momota from Japan squaring off against Germany’s Dieter Domke. – Agence France-Presse