GUANGZHOU: China's world number one mixed doubles pair were given a scare in the first round of the badminton world championships on Tuesday after dropping the first game in an intense clash.
Top-ranked Ma Jin and Xu Chen lost their opening game in Guangzhou 18-21 to unseeded Danish pair Mads Pieler Kolding and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, who found answers to their trademark nimble play and dynamite smashes.
Xu sent back scorching returns of up to 277 kilometres per hour, leaping in the air for his overhead shots, but the Danes held their nerve and withstood the onslaught.
The home crowd fell into a nervous quiet as the Danish pair went up 10-6 in the second, but the Chinese duo pulled it back to take the game 21-17.
A frenetic third game saw Xu nailing acrobatic shots, including one behind his back, as the crowd roared him on.
The Chinese number ones eventually took victory in just under an hour, pumping their fists and shouting as they won the third game 21-13.
Reigning world champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, also from China and ranked second, will step into the spotlight later Tuesday when they play Anthony Dumartheray and Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland.
The Chinese pair are favourites with fans after revealing they were a couple by hugging and kissing following their victory in the Japan Super Series in 2010.
Mixed doubles third seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia beat Malaysia's Jian Guo Ong and Yin Loo Lim 21-14, 21-11 in their first-round match on Tuesday.
The Indonesians are serious challengers for the title after winning three of the four Super Series they have taken part in this year.
Fourth seeds Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen from Denmark went through, trouncing Ukraine's Valeriy Atrashchenkov and Anna Kobceva 21-4, 21-6.
Fifth-ranked Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia went out to Koreans Kim Ki-Jung and Jung Kyung-Eun, losing 18-21, 19-21.