Two-time Olympic badminton gold medallist and five-time world champion Lin Dan will have to qualify to make his debut at this month’s Australian Open, organisers said Monday.
Lin, 30, considered the greatest badminton player of all time, saw his ranking drop to 104 after a seven-month sabbatical from the sport, returning to win the Asia Championships and China Masters this year.
“This is shaping up to be the biggest and best Australian Badminton Open in its 60 year history,” tournament director Loke Poh Wong said of the June 24-29 tournament in Sydney.
“The calibre of the field is so strong that someone like Lin Dan would still need to go through the qualifying stages to get to the main draw.”
Lin, who is currently ranked 35 in singles, is China’s second-highest earning athlete after tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na.
Other stars heading to Sydney include two of the sport’s fastest hitters, Fu Haifeng of China and Malaysia’s Tan Boon Heong.
Fu holds the Guinness World Record in competition for the fastest shot, 332 kph (206 mph) in 2005, while last year Heong registered a smash of 493 kph (306 mph), breaking the record under non-competitive conditions.
All of the gold medallists from last year’s world championships will also take to the court, including world number four Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the womenâ€™s singles and world number ones Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Assan of Indonesia in the men’s doubles.
The Australian Open is part of the BWF World Superseries with US$750,000 prize money up for grabs.
It is also one of the last opportunities for athletes to earn world ranking points needed to compete at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next month.