Jakarta: The old rivalry between superstars Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan roared back into life at the world championships on Tuesday, with both players inviting the prospect of a semi-final showdown in Jakarta.
Lee, a former world number who only returned to badminton in May after being slapped with 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 archrival 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, and badminton 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.
Top seed in the women`s competition Carolina Marin, who nearly pulled out of the tournament due to injury, had a scare as she embarked on her 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.
"At the beginning I was a little bit nervous," the Spaniard said.
Others couldn`t 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, declined to say whether she was out for revenge.
"You will have to wait and see," she told reporters via a translator.
Second seed Jan O. Jorgensen - who has arguably the hardest draw in the men`s singles - eased past Thailand`s Boonsak Ponsana, while fellow Dane Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and South Korea`s Son Wan Ho were among the other top shuttlers to book a spot in the round of 32.
Elsewhere, Israeli athlete Misha Zilberman, who was only granted a visa by 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.
Men`s world number one Chen Long, who is seeking to defend his crown and add to the four titles he`s already bagged this season, will play his first match on Wednesday after being given a first round bye.