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Badminton Love Birds Fall in Doha
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He was crushed in the final. She was upset in the semis.

The Doha Asian Games were hardly a honeymoon for China 's badminton love-birds Lin Dan and Xie Xingfang.

"I was disappointed not to win the final. I did not play very well," said a depressed Lin after losing to his arch-rival, defending champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, on Saturday.

His girlfriend Xie, who had played a key role in helping China win team events, even failed to make the final, falling to Hong Kong's Wang Chen.

"I was not at my best at the Asian Games. There were too many tournaments in this season, which made me feel tired," Xie said.

The two world No 1s have made frequent headlines thanks to their glittering achievements and off-court romance.

But Doha was hardly the city of romance for the well-known badminton idols.

"We can not expect too much from ourselves. Nobody is invincible," Xie said.

In the face of serious pressure from the fans, the two have done what they can to encourage one another.

"We talked a lot after her semi-final knock-out. I know her well. She was not at her best before the Asian Games. Actually, she was playing every well and helped China win the team title. We will never complain about each other," said Lin, who had beaten Hidayat twice during China 's charge to the team championships.

Xie, who cheered her boyfriend throughout the match, insisted Lin was treated unfairly by the referee and said she believed Lin would beat Taufik next time.

"I think it was wrong for the referee not to allow Lin to change the shuttle in the first set. It was ridiculous. Lin failed to find the rhythm," protested Xie.

Lin lost five points in a row after the referee's refusal and that basically determined the outcome of the first set.

Hidayat, the 2004 Athens Olympic champion, won the first game comfortably and then saved three game points in the second game while trailing 20-17.

"I did not keep composure when leading 20-17 in the second set. Anyway, the match is over and I should have my eyes on the future. I have to learn something from the defeat. Anyway, the 2008 Olympics is more important for me," said the reigning world champion Lin, who is still seeking an Asian Games title and an Olympic title.

Rivalry goes on

For Lin, who has gained an upper hand over Hidayat in the 2006 season with victories in the Japan Open and Hong Kong Open, the 2008 Beijing Games will be his last big chance for revenge. Hidayat plans to retire after 2008 Beijing Games.

"It will be my last Asian Games. But I will compete in Beijing and also will be my last major international tournament," Hidayat said.

Before Hidayat's swansong, the two badminton titans will continue to be in the spotlight on and off the court.

"I feel confident and comfortable that I will beat Lin Dan. There are lots of tournaments next year."

Hidayat fanned the flames of the pair's fierce rivalry before the Games when he described Lin as "arrogant."

The Indonesian had previously been docked ranking points and prize money after storming out mid-match against Lin in August.

Both denied the mutual hostility and asked the media to pay more attention to what happens on the court.

"I hope to make friends with Lin. I hope the media will not exaggerate our relationship. We are not enemies off the court," said a jubilant Hidayat.

The Indonesian, who is usually described as "bad body," also did not show any dissatisfaction at a one-man-show press conference that Lin had refused to attend.

When the media service officer was asked why Lin refused, Hidayat grimaced.

"Ask him (Lin) why!"

(China Daily December 11, 2006)

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