Lin Dan on Wednesday scotched reports that he is set to retire and said he will not give up on his unlikely bid for a third Olympic gold.
The 36-year-old, arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, went out in the first round of the Fuzhou China Open to his fellow Chinese Chen Long.
It was another blow to his fading chances of reaching next summer's Tokyo Olympics, but Lin vowed afterwards to carry on despite Chinese media saying Fuzhou could be his farewell tournament.
"I didn't know about the rumours, I think it's too early to talk about retirement," Lin was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.
"I won't give up trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics until the last minute."
Lin, a five-time world champion and the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, won the first game against Chen, 21-19.
But Chen, the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist, came back to win the next two 21-12, 21-12 and send a wilting Lin home early.
Lin has now lost eight times in the first round of tournaments this year.
Once the world number one, his ranking has fallen to 18th.
Chen and Shi Yuqi are third and fourth respectively and in pole position to represent China next summer in Tokyo, as long as they remain ahead of Lin at the April 2020 cut-off.
Shi is coming back from an ankle problem and more injuries for him could be Lin's best hope for making the China team for Tokyo.
Shi, the third seed, defeated South Korea's Son Wan Ho 21-17, 21-17.
Lin, who earned the nickname "Super Dan" during his pomp, has always said that he wanted to end his career with another tilt at Games gold.
With that prospect looking increasingly remote, Chinese media had speculated that he could announce his retirement imminently.
On Tuesday, defending Fuzhou champion Kento Momota, the world number one from Japan, defeated Daren Liew when the Malaysian retired.
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