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Chong Wei-Lin Dan to play doubles


IT'S TRUE: Perennial rivals to team up for exhibition match against Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng

 WORLD No 1 Lee Chong Wei and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan will do the unthinkable in Lingshui, China on Sunday.

Chong Wei and Lin Dan have agreed to play together in a doubles pairing for an exhibition in the latter's first appearance of the season as the China ace is set to return to competition starting with next month's Swiss Open.

Regarded as badminton's greatest ever player, the semi-retired Lin Dan, 31, has won every major tournament unlike Chong Wei who has yet to taste victory in a prestigious event, except for the All England.

Lin Dan, who is married to former Olympic silver medallist Xie Xingfang, bagged his fifth world title, overcoming Chong Wei in last year's final in Guangzhou for his 22nd career win over the Malaysian in 31 meetings.

Lin Dan and Chong Wei will experience an awkward moment when they step on court to take on China's five-time world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng on Sunday.

The exhibition is in conjunction with the opening of a new state-of-the-art training centre in Lingshui.

"I received the invitation for the match from China chief coach Li Yongbo through the BA of Malaysia (BAM). He first approached me during last month's Malaysian Open," said Chong Wei yesterday.

"I believe this match will be good not only for the fans but also for the development of the sport.

"I am excited as I've never played doubles before. I am surprised that the China BA wants me to play doubles with Lin Dan."

Chong Wei and Lin Dan were initially supposed to play Taufik Hidayat and World No 2 Chen Long but the Indonesian shuttler withdrew due to prior commitments.

Chong Wei confirmed that Lin Dan, now ranked World No 104, will return to competition next month.

"I don't think Lin Dan will qualify for the All England (March 4-9). I believe he will make his first appearance of the season at the Swiss Open (March 11-16) in Basel.

"I am aware fans want to watch me take on Lin Dan in competitions. His return will be good for me.

"It will motivate me to train harder and also give more focus to the game."

Chong Wei has also received an invitation for the Laureus World Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur on March 26.

"It is a great opportunity to be part of this prestigious event. I am proud to represent Malaysia in the event.

"I feel motivated and excited to meet Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt at the event. Maybe this will make me postpone my retirement," said the Malaysian.

Chong Wei, 32, had a fruitful outing in the recent Djarum Indonesia League by steering Musica Flypower Champion to the title.

"I played only two matches in the preliminary round and won both. It was a good experience as I met my fans in Surabaya."

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