BIRMINGHAM, England — Two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan started his quest for a seventh title at the All-England Open by beating Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, 21-19, 21-16, on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).
The 34-year-old Chinese star finished his opening match against the 21st-ranked Dane with a lively sequence of corner-to-corner clears, tight net shots, and trademark sliced smashes which suggested that his motivation - perhaps not always at its most powerful in recent years - is fully back again.
His sharp movement and lively tactical eye were supported by unusually assertive words.
"I think today I played well and outplayed my opponent," he said. "I think the All-England means more than the World Championships."
Lin lost the World Championships final to Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in Glasgow seven months ago.
Axelsen is not here, and Lin looks in good shape for a probable quarter-final confrontation on Friday with Lee Chong Wei, the top-seeded titleholder from Malaysia, who won 21-15, 21-17 against Yvor Coelho of Brazil.
Another front-runner for the title, Kidambi Srikanth, the third-seeded Indian who is in the other half of the draw, had to save a match point at 19-20 in the third game against Brice Leverdez of France before winning 7-21, 21-14, 22-20.
Earlier Ratchanok Intanon, who was the youngest ever world champion at the age of 18 and the only Thai player ever to be ranked No. 1, was surprisingly knocked out of the women's singles by losing an early-morning match to Michelle Li of Canada 21-15, 14-21, 21-19.
"I don't know what to say about it," Intanon said. "It was not my best performance, but I know she can create and turn on the shadow and that made me feel more pressure."