The greatest badminton rivalry of all time?

The badminton world has reecently been rife with talk about the end of a golden badminton error, the main driver of such talks being both Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei's rather inconsistent performance throughout 2017's season, with their uncharacteristic early exits from some Super Series tournaments. How dominant were this pair of players (and rivals) in the game of badminton, and how were their career paths interlocked? This article is meant to answer these questions. Given that they are aged 34 and 35, and have contrasting styles of play, we dub them the 'Federer and Nadal of tennis.

The Lin-Lee rivalry is widely considered the greatest rivalry in badminton history, although a rather lopsided one.They have played a total of 39 times, and Lin Dan leads their rivalry 27–12. Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan are by far two of the most dominant players across three generations and many regard Lin Dan as the greatest badminton player of all time. Making this rivalry dramatic is their signature playing styles with Lee Chong Wei (the light-weight counterpuncher) being known for his speed, counter-attacking ability, crouch defence, recovery and his deceptive net play and steep. On the other hand, Lin Dan (the offensive heavy-weight) is famed for his patience, tactical awareness in adjusting to his opponents' style of play, his sudden unleashing of huge and especially heavy attacks, sliding defence and all-round court play. With the decline of fellow legends Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade, Lee and Lin continuously adjusted their game in a continuous feedback loop to better suit the playing styles of each other, having already reached a level far beyond everyone else and thus cementing their duopoly which lasted around a decade where they not too laboriously put other players aside before engaging one another in epic battles repeatedly in major tournament finals repeatedly until the emergence of some new guards - eventual 2-time world champion and 2016 Olympic champion Chen Long and most recently 2017 world champion Viktor Axelsen. By then, Lin and Lee were entering their late 30s and supposed twilight of their careers.

More often than Federer and Nadal, they competed against each other in many major tournament finals and are currently the only two badminton men singles players who have contested in two Olympic finals consecutively, which saw Lin Dan triumph both times to become the only man in history to defend his Olympic gold. Lin won the dfirst Olympic in Beijing 2008 in a lopsided final before they clashed again 4 years later in a repeat final at London 2012. This time around, although the match was much closer with Lee drawing first blood in the first set, Lin hit back to take the match to a decider. The game swung back and forth before Lee got his nose in front at a crucial moment to hold a 19-18 lead. Lin Dan would not have defended his goal if Lee had not have his mental slip at such a crucial moment. Such mental slip of Lee's became a trademark of the rivalrey over the years as there were numerous times when he performed better than Lin only to lose at the very end. Former men doubles' world champion Steen Fladberg, who is now a commentator, once remarked that he thought Lee was the best player in London 2012 but simply lost his focus at the end. Lee managed to beat Lin in the very next Olympic games at Rio in 2016, but in did so in the semifinal stage. Their other notable contestations were two BWF World Championships finals, one Asian Games final and semi-final, similarly in the Badminton Asia Championships and four All England Open Badminton Championships finals where almost all matches were very close hard-fought three-setters. Their 2011 World Badminton Championship match widely touted as one of the greatest badminton matches of all the time. Highlights of this match are right below!

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