"Super Dan", as Chinese top shuttler Lin Dan was nicknamed, said he already felt his dominance challenged by a new force from his own team.
Lin, clinching China Masters title here on Sunday, keeps his tight grip on the top position in the Chinese badminton national team and is arguably the best player in the world, being the first player to win three world titles and only the second to hold the Olympic and world titles at the same time.
Despite all the dominance, the 26-year-old, however, felt clear challenges from the national team which recruits promising young players from all over the vast country of 1.3 billion people.
"I always think China has the world top men’s singles players in numbers. It is always more difficult for me to play my teammates than foreign players because we know each well," he said.
Lin eased past Changzhou native Qiu Yanbo in the first round of the China Masters but admitted that he could be on the losing end in training.
"Real competition is different from training. Qiu was nervous and needs more experience," said Lin. "But I could lose to younger teammates in training. Once you become a champion, others start to target you. Younger teammates like Chen Jin or Chen Long can be very tough."
Chen Jin, 23, bronze medalist in Beijing Olympics, beat Lin three times in last year’s All England Open, Asian championships and Hong Kong Open.
The 2007 junior world champion Chen Long rose to fame after the20-year-old surprised world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in March’s India Open. He then beat Lin in the national games qualifier before defeating Indonesian ace Hidayat Taufik in Malaysia.
"Chen Long will be one of the Chinese team’s most important players in the future," Chinese head coach Li Yongbo once predicted.
The Chinese team also boasts of Du Pengyu, 21, who beat Malaysian eighth seed Wong Choong Hann at this tournament and 2005Asian youth champion Lu Qicheng, 21.
For these youngsters, dethroning the Super Dan may well be a dream they would like one to come true.
"There are so many things I can learn from him. Of course I hope one day I can be like him," said Chen Long.