JAKARTA - Chinese superstar Lin Dan began his campaign for a sixth badminton world crown on Tuesday with a routine victory over American Sattawat Pongnairat in Jakarta.
The two-time Olympic gold medal winner pummelled his unseeded opponent 21-8, 21-11 to book himself a spot in the second round, a vast improvement on last year when he failed to qualify for badminton's premier event.
The 31-year-old suffered shock exits from both the Taiwan and Indonesian Opens recently, and wasn't getting ahead of himself when asked if another world crown was on his agenda.
"The competition is this championship is getting increasingly fierce," he told reporters via a translator.
"This championship is quite challenging because today we find a lot of powerful players who have good technique and stamina." Lin is expected to cruise into the quarter finals but faces an uphill battle from there, with possible clashes against second-seed Jan O. Jorgensen, ninth-seed Son Wan-ho or 14th-seed Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.
The women's third seed Li Xuerui breezed into the third round with a 21-10, 21-11 drubbing of Bulgaria's Petya Nedelcheva.
The Olympic champion was the firm favourite at last year's championships but was denied gold in the final by a gutsy Carolina Marin.
Marin, who will play her first match later Tuesday, has won three titles this season but is nursing a foot injury that almost saw her withdraw from badminton's top event.
Asked about her chances of exacting revenge on the top-seeded Spaniard, Li declined to speculate so early in the competition.
"You will have to wait and see," she told reporters via a translator.
Indonesia's Maria Febe Kusumastuti became the first seeded woman to exit the tournament, felled 18-21, 21-13, 21-9 by unseeded Taiwanese shuttler Pai Yu Po.
Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei and Denmark's Jorgensen are among other big names also due to play their opening matches on Tuesday.