BIRMINGHAM, England: Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, will complete a record which is never likely to be broken when he plays his last All-England Open starting at Britain’s national indoor arena on Wednesday.
After competing at the highest level for 17 years and winning the All-England more than a decade ago, the fourth-seeded Gade remains a leading contender – a remarkable achievement given the increasing speed of the modern game.
When the 35-year-old retires soon after the Olympic Games at London in August, he will have been by far the longest lasting top level men’s singles player the professional game has ever seen.
The slim, light-footed mover from Copenhagen would love to end on a high, but he is in the same quarter as Lee Chong Wei, the top-seeded defending All-England champion from Malaysia.
"The first part of my job is done," Gade said, having qualified nice and early for the Olympics. "So I have had three weeks where I’ve been able just to work towards the All-England
"I have had time to get a feeling of what is good and bad (in my game). Hopefully it will bring a good All-England. I take that as of high importance."
However his draw is tough right through. His first round is against Rajiv Ouseph, the former top 20 player from England, who took him to three games at the Copenhagen Masters in December and who will this time have plenty crowd support.
Gade could then face Boonsak Ponsana, the former world number four from Thailand, with a possible quarter-final against the eighth-seeded Lee Hyun-Il, a former world number one from Korea.
To survive all this, he may need all his enduring resilience.
Asked how he had managed to maintain that for so long, Gade said: "It has been a matter of life style.
"It’s a matter of trying to get the best out of every area, not only on court but off court – how to eat, sleep, and take care of yourself."
Gade’s may not the only significant goodbye. At least two other legends of badminton – Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic and world champion from Indonesia, and Lee Chong Wei himself – are suggesting they may stop after London 2012.
Possibly a fourth, Lin Dan, the Olympic and World champion, will also call it a day, something which might make it significantly harder to attract sponsors and large crowds.
It is Lin who is the greatest of them all, according to Gade. Among those the Dane has beaten are Hidayat and Heryanto Arbi of Indonesia, Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, his fellow Dane, and Sun Jun, Dong Jiong, Chen Hong, and Lin himself.
"But there is no doubt that Lin Dan is the best of them," Gade says of the brilliantly versatile left-hander who is seeded second behind Lee this week. "I don’t think that anyone is close to him, to be honest.
"I think he made a point at the world championships," Gade added referring to Lin’s close win over Lee in one of the all-time great matches in the final at Wembley in August.
"It was incredible. It was not the best Lin Dan has played, but his mental attitude was the best. And he is the best player ever."
How far Lin will go this time is in doubt, as his quarter-final is likely to be against Chen Jin, the 2010 world champion, and he might then face a semi against Chen Long, the Asian Games champion. Both are compatriots, and matches between Chinese players can be especially unpredictable.
Meanwhile Lee says he has accepted his narrow loss to Lin at Wembley "without bitterness," and may be encouraged by the memory of a success against his perennial rival in the All-England last year.
China is top seeded in four events, with Lee the player who is denying them all five top places.
Men’s singles seeds.-
1, Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia); 2, Lin Dan (China); 3, Chen Long (China); 4, Peter Gade (Denmark); 5, Chen Jin (China); 6, Sho Sasaki (Japan); 7, Kenichi Tago (Japan); 8 Lee Hyun-Il (South Korea.)