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Merrilees relishing Lin Dan opportunity in front of home crowd

By Katie Falkingham, Sportsbeat

Mention Lin Dan and a wry smile appears on Kieran Merrilees’ face, a disbelieving laugh and a shake of the head.

Playing the Greatest Of All Time is not how he had expected his first round tie to fare at the TOTAL BWF World Championships, but that’s exactly what Merrilees will face come Monday.

The two-time Olympic champion and five-time World gold medallist comes to Glasgow as one of the favourites to take the title, in what is expected to be his final World Championships appearance.

It’s an opportunity 27-year-old Merrilees will relish, having watched Lin - seeded seventh - dominate the badminton world for more than a decade as the Scottish No.1 rose up the rankings.

Yet while Merrilees is in no doubt of the onerous challenge that lies in wait, he’s confident having the home crowd behind him can give him an advantage not even the Chinese star will have.

“It doesn’t get much tougher than Lin Dan,” he said.

“When I saw the draw, part of me was pretty gutted, but I’m also quite excited to get the opportunity to play against the greatest player of all time in front of a home crowd.

“I’ve watched so much footage of Lin - he’s probably every men’s singles player’s favourite. He’s done what every one of us wants to achieve in our career and more.

“I think I’ve just got to try and use the home crowd to my advantage. Of course, I respect him, but I can’t be scared of him.

“I’ve just got to try and keep the shuttle going for as long as possible, play to my strengths, and attack.

“It’s a slow hall, so hopefully I can keep the rallies going and make him hit a few mistakes.”

Merrilees’ clash with Lin is expected to be the star encounter of the first day of action at the Emirates Arena.

It’s a venue Merrilees is all too familiar with, and he’s confident that seeing the world’s finest players take to Scottish soil will be the catalyst for more people to pick up a badminton racket.

“I’ve got some great memories from this hall of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and the Scottish Open is always an extra bonus,” he added.

“I think for the home crowd to see some of these players will inspire the next generation, and young kids will watch people like Lin Dan and want to pick up badminton.

“For all the players, this Championships has been in the back of our heads for the past few months.

“We’ve had a really busy period with trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, we’ve been in Australia, Canada and America.

“It has come around really quickly and I think everyone is looking forward to it now.”

And with just a handful of tickets remaining for the TOTAL BWF World Championships, time is ticking for badminton fans to secure their piece of the action.

"Watching Kieran play the greatest badminton player of all time in Lin Dan will be a memorable way to kick off the TOTAL BWF World Championships," said Anne Smillie, Chief Executive of BADMINTONscotland.

"We are so excited to welcome thousands of fans to the Emirates Arena, for what promises to be an enthralling seven days of badminton."

You can find the full schedule on Tournament Software

The TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 will be staged at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena from 21-27 August.

It is being delivered by BADMINTONscotland in partnership with Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council and with funding support from EventScotland and The National Lottery through UK Sport.

Tickets available at www.glasgow2017.com/tickets