Lee, a former world number who only returned to badminton in May after an eight-month ban for doping, looked dangerous as he swept aside Lithuania’s Kestutis Navickas 21-9, 21-13 in his opening match.

His arch-rival Lin, a two-time Olympic champion, began his campaign for a sixth world crown in similar fashion, demolishing American Sattawat Pongnairat 21-8, 21-11. 

The pair are long-running foes, with China’s Lin denying Malaysia’s Lee gold in two world championships and back-to-back Olympics in 2008 and 2012. Fans are savouring the possibility the veterans could clash in a semi-final sizzler in Jakarta.

“I am aware a great many people are waiting for us to duel on the court. Certainly I will give my best performance if this occurs, Lee, 32, told reporters.

“This could be our last game, because maybe next year we will retire.”

Lin said Lee’s strong return to the badminton circuit — the Malaysian has won back-to-back US and Canada Open titles this season — would make the competition “increasingly fierce” and invited the opportunity for a rematch.

“Especially if you consider our age, we’ve had few opportunities to play,” Lin, 31, told reporters.

“I would love if we could play again.”

Lin is expected to cruise through his next match but Lee — who is unseeded at the world championships for the first time in years — must navigate his way past 12th seed German shuttler Marc Zwiebler.

– Early nerves –

Top seed Carolina Marin, who nearly pulled out of the tournament due to injury, had a scare as she embarked on the defence of her world title. 

The world number one lost her first set against Malaysia’s Tee Jing Yi, before finding her feet and delivering some blistering smashes to convincingly claim the match 19-21, 21-14, 21-13.

The Spaniard said this tournament was especially hard given she only returned to the court a fortnight ago following her foot injury.

“At the beginning I was a little bit nervous,” she said.

Others could not control the jitters, with ninth women’s seed Nozomi Okuhara going down a third straight time to unseeded Thai shuttler Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, while Taiwan’s Pai Yu Po knocked out Indonesia’s Maria Febe Kusumastuti.

Third seed Li Xuerui breezed into the third round with a 21-10, 21-11 drubbing of Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva.

The Olympic champion, who was upstaged by a gutsy Marin last year, declined to say whether she was out for revenge. 

“You will have to wait and see,” she told reporters via a translator.

Other top women’s players including Wang Shixian, P.V. Sindhu, Busanan Ongbumrungpan and Sung Ji Hyun also booked places in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Seeded men’s shuttlers Srikanth Kidambi, Hu Yun, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Zwiebler progressed to the round of 32, with Danish second-seed Jan O. Jorgensen and South Korea’s Son Wan Ho scheduled to play later in the evening.

Elsewhere, Israeli athlete Misha Zilberman, who was only granted a visa by Muslim-majority Indonesia at the 11th hour to compete in the world championships, blamed the immigration saga for his early departure from the tournament.

Zilberman was only granted a visa after the head of the Badminton World Federation intervened directly on his behalf, but the shuttler said the disruption to his training caused his 21-14, 21-14 drubbing at the hands of Taiwan’s Hsu Jen Hao.

World number one Chen Long, who is seeking to defend his crown and add to the four titles he has already bagged this season, will play his first match on Wednesday after being given a first-round bye. – Agence France-Presse

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