China’s recently retired superstar Lin Dan revealed his on-court rivalry with Lee Chong Wei was every bit as ferocious, but off it they were close even to the extent of texting each other after matches.

Both men faced off against each other 40 times throughout their professional career spanning two decades, and Lin Dan admitted the energy sapping battles were reciprocated by mutual fondness for each other as the years went by.

"When we first competed at 17 or 18, the rivalry was intense. After matches, we’d stare fiercely at each other. After battling for years, as we settled down and had kids, we looked at things more maturely.

"Of course, during the match, we were still eager to defeat each other. But after that, win or lose, we’d exchange text messages via WeChat," Lin Dan was quoted saying on

The former singles ace retired earlier this month having won every major title including two Olympic gold medals and five world titles.

Throughout his career, it was Lee who pushed Lin Dan the hardest and the southpaw admitted the Malaysian made him the force he was.

"Sometimes, having such a great opponent is more important than a coach. His perseverance and strength really pushes you. When you think it’s okay, he’ll make you lift your standard a notch.

"To have faced a strong, great opponent makes my career Grand Slam even more fulfilling. He’s a great sportsman," Lin Dan added.

Lee recently paid tribute to Lin Dan as the greatest shuttler of all time, admitting an obsession with his Chinese rival.

The former Malaysian shuttler also expressed his desire to promote the game with Lin Dan in the near future.