Lin Dan – An Appreciation

Few players have the luxury of walking away from their sport without any lacuna in their résumé – so complete are their achievements. Lin Dan was one such.

To call him the ‘Greatest Ever’ would be a disservice to many other legends of the sport, not just in men’s singles, but women’s singles and the doubles categories as well, for achievements cannot be compared across eras or categories.

But he was without doubt the greatest men’s singles player of the post-2000 period. To watch him in his prime was to see an apex predator in flight, so disconcertingly confident in its abilities. Lin Dan had a swagger to match his genius; his ownership of the court perhaps gave him that edge when confronted with dire situations.

This special combination – of supreme self-belief and on-court ability – made him a widely-recognised icon, not just in the badminton world, but beyond.

This swagger was there even early in his career. Against the accomplished Peter Gade, for instance, in the All England 2004 final, Lin had the same cockiness that he carried with him later on.

But his swagger was based on substance. Lin’s greatness rested on all-round ability, for no opponent in the course of two decades was consistently able to exploit any perceived weakness. As an attacking men’s singles player, his explosiveness was his signature strength; the high vertical take-off gave him a number of options, even from deep within his court – the outright crosscourt or down-the-line smash, the well-placed half-smash, or a variety of sliced shots. His explosiveness also gave him the ability for sharp interceptions that he made his own.

Allied to all this was a tight defence which often was spectacular, for when all else failed he dived full-length to retrieve from impossible situations; enough deception to wrong-foot opponents, and wickedly-angled shots under pressure which he sometimes played with his back to the net. All this would have counted for little had he not had the mental strength to back his abilities; it was in his department that he would prove tougher than any of his contemporaries.

He was to say later that his early loss in Athens 2004 made him resolve never to let pressure affect him again. It is possible that he was not totally invulnerable, for he was human – the Malaysia Open 2006 final loss to Lee Chong Wei, where he blew seven match points, was a case in point – but what made him extraordinary was how rarely he succumbed at the biggest tournaments. At six World Championships between 2006 and 2013, he suffered but one loss, and in this period also captured two Olympic gold medals. The pressure of playing at home in Beijing 2008 was followed by the pressure of defending his crown in London 2012; on both occasions he emerged unscathed.

At some of these events he was severely tested, most prominently by Lee Chong Wei. In the 2011 final he trailed in the third game and was two match points down. A year later came the epic final at the London Olympics, where once again Lee was on the threshold of glory. But Lin’s stubbornness proved impossible for Lee to surmount.

Further heartbreak awaited the Malaysian. Lin had all but disappeared from the circuit, playing just one event in the run-up to the World Championships 2013. Momentum and match-fitness seemed to be on Lee’s side, and things looked well for him with a first game win. Lin turned to an aspect of his game that few had given him credit for; he made it a battle of attrition with endless clears, challenging Lee to find a way past him. The Malaysian eventually succumbed to cramps in the third game.

Following that success, Lin was again out of the circuit for a while. On his return in 2014, and touching 30, he changed his style, trading his explosiveness for a more thoughtful approach, relying more on placement and courtcraft. Unable to play the World Championships 2014, he defeated both Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long at the Asian Games for his second gold medal.

His reliance on craft was the second innings of his career, and it continued to bring him the titles, though not as frequently as before. Among his later successes should count the Japan Open 2015 title, when he masterfully outplayed Viktor Axelsen after trailing 3-11 in the third; his sixth All England title (2016); Malaysia Open titles (2017 and 2019), and a second World Championships silver (2017).

His second Malaysia Open title, just over a year ago – he beat players like Chou Tien Chen, Shi Yu Qi and Chen Long – demonstrated that even when he was far from his prime, he was still a force to reckon with.

Asked what he thought about a potential successor, he said: “There’s a lot that he has to do to match my achievements.” It is unlikely that his achievements will be matched in the foreseeable future.

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Tokyo Legends Inspiring Current Stars

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Kim Gives Kajiwara Four Years – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

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Big in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International: Day 1

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Might of Mind Over Matter – Road To Tokyo: Valeska Knoblauch

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World Juniors Showcases Growth of Badminton

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History for Tahiti Juniors

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Ray’s a Real Sport – 25th Edition World C’Ships

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Flaming Dane Set Courts Aglow – 25th Edition World C’Ships

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Crowd Pleasing Superstar – 25th Edition World C’Ships

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Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 2) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

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Genius of Vintage Invincibles (Part 1) – 25th Edition World C’Ships

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Born Fighter – Road To Tokyo: Tim Haller

6 August 2019
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At the Height of His Career – Road To Tokyo: Lucas Mazur

16 July 2019
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Badminton Saved My Life – Road To Tokyo: Chan Ho Yuen

5 July 2019
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2 July 2019
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Determined Penty Seeks Success in Minsk

21 June 2019
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Key Moments: Chen vs. Yamaguchi – Sudirman Cup ‘19

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What We Have Learned – Road To Tokyo

29 May 2019
Pathway to Success for Kazakhstan – Sudirman Cup ’19

Pathway to Success for Kazakhstan – Sudirman Cup ’19

21 May 2019
Chinese stars endorse AirBadminton

Chinese stars endorse AirBadminton

16 May 2019
Insights into the New AirShuttle

Insights into the New AirShuttle

15 May 2019
7 Things You Need to Know About AirBadminton

7 Things You Need to Know About AirBadminton

14 May 2019
BWF Encourages ‘Sport For All’ Through Charity Coaching Clinic

BWF Encourages ‘Sport For All’ Through Charity Coaching Clinic

6 April 2019
Badminton House: Where It All Started

Badminton House: Where It All Started

20 March 2019
BWF Shuttle Time Graduates Debut on the Big Stage

BWF Shuttle Time Graduates Debut on the Big Stage

14 March 2019
Scene Set for Intriguing All England

Scene Set for Intriguing All England

5 March 2019
Online English Language Learning for Athletes

Online English Language Learning for Athletes

27 February 2019
Badminton Still No. 1 for Sri Lankan Cricket’s Latest Debutante

Badminton Still No. 1 for Sri Lankan Cricket’s Latest Debutante

6 February 2019
BWF’s Health Study to Address Injury Concerns

BWF’s Health Study to Address Injury Concerns

17 January 2019
Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

10 January 2019
Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

7 January 2019
All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

2 January 2019
Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

25 December 2018
Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

18 November 2018
Kento Momota Completes Ascent

Kento Momota Completes Ascent

27 September 2018
Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

10 March 2018
Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

22 January 2018
Welcome to Glasgow!

Welcome to Glasgow!

19 August 2017
Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

13 June 2017
Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

6 May 2017
‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

3 May 2017
Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

16 March 2017
Sung Energised by Recent Successes

Sung Energised by Recent Successes

1 March 2017
Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

20 February 2017
‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

27 January 2017
Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

20 January 2017
Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

18 January 2017
Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

16 January 2017
Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

22 November 2016
Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

21 November 2016
Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

9 November 2016
Champion Retires to Classroom

Champion Retires to Classroom

14 October 2016
Charismatic Champ Bows Out

Charismatic Champ Bows Out

5 October 2016
Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

29 September 2016
Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

26 July 2016
Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

25 July 2016
Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

30 May 2016
Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

15 March 2016
Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

4 March 2016
Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

2 March 2016
Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

24 February 2016
Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

16 February 2016
Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

9 February 2016
Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

5 February 2016
‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

28 January 2016
My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

22 January 2016
Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

20 January 2016
We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

20 January 2016
Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

30 December 2015
Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

11 December 2015
Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

18 November 2015
Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

17 October 2015
Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

9 October 2015
100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

31 August 2015
Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

12 August 2015
Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

11 May 2015
Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

7 April 2015
Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

1 April 2015
In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

24 March 2015
World of a Battle for No.1

World of a Battle for No.1

20 March 2015
Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

22 December 2014
Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

18 December 2014
Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

5 September 2014
Bonding through Badminton

Bonding through Badminton

26 August 2014
Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

25 August 2014
Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

20 August 2014
Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

17 August 2014
Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

14 November 2013
Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

6 September 2013
RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

27 August 2013
Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

15 August 2013
Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

29 January 2013