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Lin sweeps through as rivals stutter

WORLD and Olympic champion Lin Dan breezed through the first round of the All England tournament in Birmingham on Wednesday with a 21-13, 21-14 victory over dangerous Indian Anup Sridhar.

Former Olympic gold medalist Taufik Hidayat, All England titleholder Chen Jin and No. 1 seed Lee Chong Wei all, however, dropped sets on their way to round two.

Second seed Lin was given a fright in the 2007 world championships by Sridhar, who stretched the Chinese all the way before yielding. The Indian also took a set off him in the first round of the All England in 2008.

There was to be no repeat this time, though, as Lin, seeking a fourth title in the tournament, rattled home in 31 minutes.

Earlier, Indonesia's Taufik, seeded seventh and intent on a first All England crown at the age of 27, dropped a set against Chinese Taipei's unseeded Hsieh Yu Hsin but carried the day 21-19, 15-21, 21-14.

Chen, the surprise 2008 All England winner when he beat Lin in the final, was also taken to three before ousting Japan's Kenichi Tago 21-7, 15-21, 21-14.

World No. 1 Lee lost the first set to China's Lu Yi but eventually came through 19-21, 21-16, 21-11.

In the second round yesterday the Malaysian beat unseeded German Marc Zwiebler 21-18, 21-16. Lin faces experienced compatriot Bao Chunlai.

There was disappointment for home fans when Nathan Robertson, winner of the mixed title with Gail Emms in 2005 and world champion in 2006, pulled out of the tournament suffering from a virus.

Off the court, China claimed that it had found the solution to the dwindling number of youngsters playing badminton. The Chinese Badminton Association says there are now just a thousand registered players in China and the relaunch of a national league is essential to boost those numbers.

"The league is a must, as it is the only way to commercialize and promote badminton," CBA spokeswoman Wang Yuyan said.

Inevitably, however, the proposed league would result in Chinese players shunning international events to play at home.

"You cannot burn the candle at both ends, we will have to give up some international tournaments," China's head coach Li Yongbo said. The Badminton World Federation said it wanted to talk to the CBA about the league.

"The BWF is concerned with the development but welcomes open discussion on the issue for the mutual benefit of all parties," BWF chair of events Paisan Rangsikitpho said.

Chinese players won 11 of 20 medals at the 2007 world championships and eight of 15 at last year's Beijing Olympics.

But Chinese parents no longer see sport as an attractive way for their offspring to get on in life. The CBA's solution is the six to eight team league, which it says has already attracted 20 million yuan (US$2.92 million) in sponsorship ahead of a projected start by the end of the year.

"This will make more and more Chinese parents let their children play badminton since they can see hope through the league," said Liu Fengyan, director of the Badminton and Table Tennis Administration.

The CBA admits clashes with the international calendar are inevitable but says they will be kept to as few as possible.

"The league is carefully working on the schedule to co-ordinate with the international tournaments as much as possible," said Wang.

"The national team's performance on the international stage must not be affected, as well as the status China has held in the badminton world," she added.

"Chinese badminton faces a challenge," Liu said. "Many provinces have shelved their badminton teams ... at the same time there have been no new teams formed for 30 years."

Another benefit of the league, Liu believes, would be to offer financial rewards to the many top quality players who fail to make it into the national team.

"A badminton player has very little chance to succeed unless he can make it into the national team," Liu said. "Who is going to do this if they are unable to make a living after decades of intensive training?"


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