The Chinese shuttler’s ability to soak up pressure by holding on to longer rallies makes life extremely difficult for his opponents.
It is hard to find a defensively equipped player on par with Chen Long’s ability in badminton right now. The 32-year-old reigning Olympic champion is the master of longer rallies as he keeps his opponents frustrated with his defensive resilience. He is very good at blocking the ball and has a Godspeed reaction time. With hardly many players using that style, Chen Long finds himself with a unique advantage over his rivals.
Legendary Chinese player Lin Dan had once said, “Playing against Chen Long is like playing against a wall.” Chen makes life difficult for his opponents as he usually likes to maintain slower rallies, making it easier for him to control the flow of the game. He is very good at adjusting his feet to reach the shuttle as he can break out his defensive approach with surprise drop shots.
It was with the China Open Super Series victory in 2010 that Chen Long’s name started to become popular. Then he went on to win the Bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, which proved catalyst for his future success. A year later, he convincingly defeated the Malaysian heavyweight Lee Chong Wei in the 2013 All England Open Badminton Championships final.
It was the All England Open victory that firmly established Chen’s reputation. Notably, Chen Long bagged the 2015 All England Super Series Premier, defeating Lin Dan in straight sets en route to the finals. He had finally emerged from the shadows of Lin Dan to become the next big thing in his country’s badminton.
Amongst the other titles, he won two successive World Championships in 2014 and 2015. He also won two Bronze medals at the World Championships in 2017 and 2018. But his most memorable moment came in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Seeded second, Chen Long had little difficulties in qualifying for the knockout rounds of the Olympics. He then defeated Son Wan-ho of South Korea in a closely fought quarterfinal before easing past the eventual bronze-medalist Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the semifinals.
In a much hyped final, World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei struggled to get past the resistance shown by the Chinese player. With straight sets victory, Chen Long secured his maiden Olympic Gold medal – another feather in his illustrious cap.
Even though he is 32, Chen Long will be regarded as a major threat in the next Olympics. He still has few more years left at the top level, and will hope to maintain his consistency, particularly his defensive resistance, to survive longer in the game. Undoubtedly, Chen Long is a unique superstar in his own way.