Retired world #1s return for Korea Masters

Former world #1s Lee Yong Dae, Yoo Yeon Seong, Ko Sung Hyun, and Robert Mateusiak are all surprise entries in the 2017 Korea Masters, which begins on November 28th in […]

Former world #1s , Yoo Yeon Seong, Ko Sung Hyun, and Robert Mateusiak are all surprise entries in the 2017 Korea Masters, which begins on November 28th in Gwangju.

Photos: Badmintonphoto

Last autumn, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) reported that former Olympic gold medallist Lee Yong Dae had sent in his documentation.  He was removed from the world rankings and it seemed that from that time forward, he would only be seen in professional leagues at home and abroad, but not in international ranking events.

Over the past year, all five of the men with whom Lee shared the podium at the 2014 World Championships followed suit in different ways.  Kim Sa Rang made his retirement official with the BWF at the same time as Lee Yong Dae and Shin Baek Cheol followed a month later.  Ko Sung Hyun announced his departure from the national team in January of this year, and Kim Gi Jung and Yoo Yeon Seong did the same shortly before the Sudirman Cup.

Then in late May, it came to light that all of these players were actually forbidden from playing international ranking tournaments by Badminton Korea Association (BKA) rules that essentially said players had to be either on the national team or over 31 if they wanted to keep playing internationally.  BWF rules, of course, guarantee this type of control by accepting tournament entries exclusively from national associations.  What brought the BKA rule to public attention was the report that Ko Sung Hyun was actually looking into legal proceedings against the national body for not allowing him to play.

No new reports on Ko’s situation have emerged recently and in September, the by then 31-year-old Yoo Yeon Seong entered two Superseries events with Malaysian Lim Khim Wah.  Then this week, the entry lists were published for the Korea Masters Gold.  Not only was Yoo on the list but he was paired with Lee Yong Dae, with whom he was ranked #1 in the world at the time of Lee’s retirement.  Ko Sung Hyun and former world #2 Kim Gi Jung are also entered, paired with team-mates on their respective domestic pro teams.

Of the four, only Lee Yong Dae was reported by the BWF to have officially documented his retirement with them.  As for the other three, their case is not uncommon.  The BKA has often allowed under-31 players not on the national team to play in their secondary event.  For example, in 2011, Beijing bronze medallist Hwang Ji Man played in the Korea Grand Prix Gold and a month later, Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na participated in the Korea Open while still under suspension by the BKA from playing internationally.  This would suggest that the Korea Masters could be a one-off affair and that only Yoo will continue to compete overseas, at least until Ko Sung Hyun’s 31st birthday in May.

The last of the quartet of ‘retired’ #1 players is Poland’s Robert Mateusiak.  After winning the Polish Open last winter, he hinted to our local correspondent that he would be retiring after the European Championships and indeed he has not played since.  He and Nadiezda Zieba (pictured), with whom he was briefly ranked #1 back in 2010, even declined their invitation to the 2017 World Championships.  But still the 41-year-old’s name appears on the list for the Korea Masters, where he is slated to play with Germany’s Olga Konon.  Like Zieba a native of Belarus, Konon too was briefly registered as a Polish player before she began playing for Germany.  Konon is also entered in women’s doubles with Kang Chang Hee of the Shiheung City Hall team.

Click here to download the full Korea Masters entry lists from the BWF website


Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @