pec Op ial e n
IN D S IAN
Vol. 3. No. 5
For Private Circulation Only
April - May 2012
April - May 2012
A departure from the academy model
gone well for a year, or year-and-a-half, and the owners have changed the parameters of what I had to do. I wanted to give time and energy to the players I choose to work with.”
n what might set the trend for future training programmes of competitive players in India, six international players have joined senior coach Tom John at a club in Bangalore for professional training. The model is unique in the sense that it breaks away from the standard template of competitive players training at wellendowed academies run on the national camp model. Academies in India are run on a socialist template that was borrowed from the examples of the Asian powerhouses of the Seventies. They are usually built on land leased from government at minimal cost, and run through a combination of private funds and government money. Even when players are charged, the cost of training is subsidized, and most international players usually come up the ranks paying next to nothing. The academy caters to at least 20 competitive players of various age groups, and all the services the players need, such as coaches, physios and nutritionists, are provided by the academy. The Padukone Academy was the first to set this model – and although there have been some variations, the model has essentially remained the same. Former England coach Tom John, who was associated with the Padukone and Gopichand Academies earlier, decided to strike out on his own after a stint with the Uttar Pradesh Badminton Academy ended prematurely. Without a sports complex of his own to work out of, Tom was forced to consider low cost alternatives, and finally settled on four courts at Koramangala Club in Bangalore. Six Internationals Anup Sridhar, Ajay Jayaram, Aditi Mutatkar, Jacqueline Rose Kunnath, Prakash Jolly and Mohit Kamat are part of the 10 member academy. Each of them pays a fee that covers all the expenses of training. As Tom will accompany his trainees to some of their international tournaments, this model is unique in badminton because it resembles the more professional systems of tennis or golf. “In badminton it’s not common for players to pay for training, but in tennis it is, you know,” says Tom. “Every international tennis player has his own coach and trainers
Ideally, says Tom, he’d like to have his own complex of eight or ten courts, but “you’re talking big money, and unless you have a big sponsor, that sort of thing is not possible.” This is therefore a ‘second-best option and members of the Koramangala club are very co-operative and friendly. We are in final talks with Aratt Group of companies and Li Ning for long term sponsorships. We are also in look out for good badminton facilities in and around Bangalore to get associated with.
and hitting partner, so they’re used to paying for a team.” “I’ve worked for other academies in the past, and people have been saying I should start my own academy, and be able to do what I want to do,” says Tom, who has worked with the likes of Morten Frost and Yang Yang while he was in England. “I’ve always started at academies and things have
TOM’s Badminton Academy Bangalore , India
Thomas J. Kunnath +91 98450 27878 +91 9035390346
Among Tom’s trainees, the highest-ranked is Ajay Jayaram, who narrowly missed on qualifying for the Olympics. The others – such as Anup Sridhar and Aditi Mutatkar — are not at the top of their game, but Tom believes he can make a difference to their careers.“We have some who are exinternationals who are searching for their form… but as a coach your job is also to help players if they still want to perform at a certain level. If you believe they can achieve that level it’s worth it. So someone like Anup should be able to get into the 30s (ranking)… it’s early days, but we’ll see. We have a lot of young players coming up; it’s good for the senior players not to hang their rackets too early.” It will be interesting to see if Tom’s model is adopted by coaches who will offer a more personalized training programme at higher costs, and if there are takers. Players who want to excel, and can afford to pay between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month, might well opt for this model, for it means being able to train away from other prying eyes, and to fashion a programme that suits them, besides of course having a lot more attention from their coach. It’s time badminton players followed the professional methods of their tennis-playing cousins.
The dive that changed his destiny A
ticket to London. A lifetime’s memories. Being part of the greatest spectacle on earth. The Olympic village. Playing before millions. How could so much hinge on just one point? And yet, that is precisely what unfolded at the India Open Superseries. Rarely has so much of value turned on so little. It was pre-quarterfinal day, and the fates of two Indian men were to be decided. Ajay Jayaram and P Kashyap were locked in a close battle for the lone Indian spot at the Olympics; Ajay led by a few ranking points, and the arithmetic was in his favour. Kashyap had not only to win his second round match against the wily and
experienced Thai Boonsak Ponsana, he also had to beat Chinese Chen Jin in the quarterfinals to ensure his passage to the Olympics. Even assuming he could beat Ponsana, Chen Jin was a different prospect altogether – few in the world are capable of beating him. And so, you could say, Ajay’s London ticket was nearly booked.
INDIAN OPEN And with both playing at the same time, the countdown couldn’t have got tighter. Both Ajay and Kashyap, having lost the first game, won the second to take their matches to the decider. Ajay, facing world No.1 Lee Chong Wei, was perhaps unlucky to have his fate decided by the world’s best player, for Chong Wei demolished him in the third, and even as they left the arena, Kashyap was locked in a desperate battle against Ponsana. But Ponsana – a contemporary of Kashyap’s coach Gopichand – deceptive and wristy, edged ahead 19-17, just a hair’s breath away from match points. It was at this stage that Kashyap showed astonishing resolve. Ponsana played an immaculate clip from the back — the shuttle homing in on the vacant floor within the service line. Ponsana had almost assumed he had taken the point when Kashyap dived in from nowhere, a full-bodied dive that picked the shuttle inches off the floor and deposited it back in Ponsana’s court. The Thai looked on in disbelief, but he would not be denied the next point. It was now 20-18, two match points.
The two traded shots at the net, and Kashyap was awkwardly fending off a drive to his face. The shuttle looped up, and for all purposes, the match was over. Ponsana had only to knock it back, for Kashyap had given up. But then, call it what you will – tremendous luck; fate; or just the glorious uncertainty of sport – the match swung crazily. So much would turn on so little. Ponsana played the weirdest shot of his life. Having assumed the point was over, he half-turned and paddled up a lollipop into the air that Kashyap couldn’t miss in his sleep. One match point saved! The Thai was too crestfallen to contest the next three points and Kashyap still had a straw to clutch at. Next to come was Chen Jin. Ajay must have yet nursed his chances, but then came the news – Chen Jin had withdrawn from the contest, as the latest rankings had him at No.4 and a definite spot in the Olympics. Kashyap had his place in the semifinals and had overtaken Ajay. Depending on which way you looked at it, it was either tremendous good luck or bad fortune. A whole career could be defined on becoming an Olympian; perhaps a whole life would be defined by it. So much might change for Kashyap, and that because he had the courage at 17-19 to dive for what seemed a lost point. If he hadn’t, things wouldn’t have unfolded this way. Many in the press asked him about how ‘lucky’ he’d been, but Kashyap hasn’t had it easy. Over the last year, he has battled injury and had to recover from the trauma of a personal tragedy to keep his Olympic hopes alive. Ajay didn’t lose his Olympic place — Kashyap won it.
April - May 2012
Shon Wan Ho Crowns S hon Wan Ho’s India Open Superseries win is one of the best things to have happened in recent times in badminton. It’s been long since someone who’s not Chinese or Lee Chong Wei has won a men’s singles Superseries title from a competitive draw. Although it’s still too early to predict what exactly this means for world badminton, the positives outweigh the negatives. To begin with, it will hopefully give some momentum to men’s singles in Korea, a discipline in which they should have excelled at but have not for a variety of reasons. Korea has always been famous for its doubles; it is strange that they have not given the same attention to singles (They do have a good crop of women’s singles players, but they aren’t yet in contention for the major titles). Over the last six to seven years, there has been such a poverty of good Korean men’s singles players. Lee Hyun Il and Park Sung Hwan have carried the burden for long, but they are on the decline. It’s a rather bleak comment on the game that Hyun Il came back from retirement and was yet good enough to break into the top-ten (now No.7).
Despite Hyun Il and Sung Hwan’s occasional title triumphs, Korea has always been more focused on the doubles. Shon Seung Mo won the Olympic silver medal at Athens in 2004, but that success wasn’t capitalized upon. It was significant that Shon Seung Mo was in the coach’s corner as Shon Wan Ho beat Chong Wei for the India Open title, and there is a poignant photograph of him kneeling down in celebration as his trainee lies flat on the floor after converting match point. After the India Open victory, Korean coach Kim Ji Hyun acknowledged its significance. “Well, he can win a medal at the Olympics,” she said. “He’s a dark horse, so you never know (about the Olympics). He beat Peter Gade and Chong Wei. The younger generation (of Korean singles players) is coming up. So you just watch us!” To beat Chong Wei in the final was creditable, but it’s hard to make out from one title victory whether Shon can go on to become a top-ten player, or more importantly, to become a consistent challenger to the very best from China, which is the ultimate test for any badminton player. What we saw of Shon was a fast,
aggressive player who was nerveless at the net and boundless in his energy. “I worked hard to improve my net game, and my physical condition is also good. That helped me against Chong Wei,” said Shon. A strong Korean team is of vital importance in a post-London Olympics world. One hopes, for the sake of world badminton, that he will go on from here. Shon is no newcomer – he has been playing since 2007, although he became a regular on the Superseries circuit only in 2009. It remains to be seen how far Shon can go and whether he can revitalize Korean singles badminton. The example of Kenichi Tago is a stark reminder of the pitfalls of predicting success too early. Tago had, in a sensational All England campaign in 2010, beaten Bao Chunlai and Chen Jin before falling to Lee Chong Wei in the final. His zest and verve during that tournament seemed to mark him out as a player for the future, but he hasn’t done anything of note since then. If Shon can step up to the plate, we will have something to cheer about after the impending retirements of some of the greats of contemporary badminton.
GUTS - A Window into World Badminton
April - May 2012
Juliane Schenk W
orld No.8 Juliane Schenk had a brilliant run at the India Open Superseries, beating two Chinese on two days and almost upsetting the third in the final. Over the last few years, the German has been one of a handful to have resisted the Chinese successfully. With wins over nearly every top player, Schenk – along with Denmark’s Tine Baun — will be Europe’s big hope for an Olympic medal. Dev S Sukumar caught up with the affable Schenk during the India Open: Your thoughts on the India Open final? I have to give all respect to (winner) Li Xuerui. I tried my best throughout the match, and have nothing to complain about. I showed I have the power to once in a while step on top. It was a few key points. I still believe that once in a while I’ll be on top, no matter how many times I will finish runner-up. I haven’t beaten Xuerui yet. Of course she’s one of the top players. One day I will have my chance. What makes the Chinese so difficult to beat? The speed and all the skills the Chinese have, it’s amazing. As long as they find their rhythm and have full control of the match, they’re difficult to read. You have to break they rhythm and break their confidence. You are one of the few, apart from Saina
Nehwal and Tine Baun, who has been able to challenge the Chinese domination of the game…
How disappointing was it to lose to Tine Baun in the final of the European Championships?
I want many different countries to challenge the Chinese. It’s important for the sport. We need a mix of all the countries, otherwise it’s getting one-sided, and that’s not good for the future of badminton.
Yeah, it was a great final, world-class badminton. Tine and me, we both deserved to win. It’s unfortunate that there would be only one winner. I’m quite satisfied with my performance.
Among the Chinese, is each player different, or are there some basic similarities?
Are you happy with the season so far? You reached quite a few tournament finals.
Of course they all have special skills, but the most deciding point is their speed and confidence about winning. It’s not a matter of them having a special Chinese style. They have this attitude. They’re learning from the beginning, this winning spirit, and no matter what happens on court they don’t lose focus. It’s amazing.
It’s fine. There have been ups and downs, and some big tournaments for me this year. I’ve beaten some good players, and I’m playing stable. You need to be healthy and fit, that’s the most important thing.
INDIAN OPEN You played the European Championships final in Amsterdam and find yourself in India a week later. How difficult is it to play in different continents within the space of a week? Yes, that’s true. It’s hard work and a tough job, but we’re facing the end of the Olympic qualifying period and I’m looking forward to having rest soon. You need to build up all your energy and focus each match, and that works for me.
How is your success perceived in Germany? We’re trying to make it more popular. Recent results are helping. Soccer, tennis and Formula One are big in the media, but we’re working on it. Definitely there’s more attention on us during the Olympic period. The interest is growing. It’s good for the sport. Let’s see what the future brings. There’s good spirit in the team after our recent performances. A few players are world-class, and helping to make badminton more popular in Germany. Does the profile of badminton increase in Germany with every Olympics? I think it’s rising. Recently we had good results (at the European Championships). In Asia, badminton is really on top, and it’s such an amazing sport. I believe we can bring it up in my home country as well. What are your impressions of the India Open? A lot of young spectators, cheering. It’s full of joy. It gives you extra spirit. This is my second time in India, and I have good memories. I was close to winning a medal at the World Championships (in Hyderabad) in 2009. How do you spend your spare time? I enjoy my free time. I enjoy cooking and reading. I’m looking forward to the summer.
League with a difference Indian badminton seems to have fallen in love with the hugely successful IPL-league format. After Maharashtra and Karnataka, it’s now the turn of Tamil Nadu to conceive a league, and in a way no one has done before. The Tamil Nadu league will have international players – the first such experiment in India – and organizers are even negotiating with a shopping mall to conduct the finals there. Apparently, such is the interest among potential team owners that the number of buyers has far exceeded the organisers’ expectations. The league is the brainchild of Indian international Aditya Elango, whose company Game Point brought it to fruition. “Although the idea was mine, the team that executed it consisted of T Maran, chief coach of Tamil Nadu, Abdul Rahim, CEO of Game Point, and Dolly Jain, COO.I got the idea three years ago after the first IPL,” Aditya told Dev. “At that time, nobody listened to me, but the Maharashtra and Karnataka leagues last year convinced them we could do something like that here too.” Aditya’s company Game Point – which seeks to promote badminton in Tamil Nadu – is in charge of organising the league, with the blessings of the TN state badminton association. “The idea has been on paper since October, but we got the TNBA’s confirmation on 1st February,” says Aditya. “At planning stage, we had long discussions with Vijay Lancy and Thomas Kunnath of Sports Excellence, who organised KBL, which really helped us. They also came all the way to Chennai to coordinate and conduct the auction”. Organisers are overwhelmed by the interest from unlikely places like Erode and Coimbatore, and more crucially from the companies they approached. “Earlier,
I’d drafted the proposal appealing to the sponsors to support badminton, but the response wasn’t good,” he says. “Then we re-drafted the proposal, showing how the teams would make profits after just the second year. We’d decided on six teams.” The list of players includes former national champion Chetan Anand and international players such as Malaysian internationals Yogendran Krishnan and Yeoh Kay Bin, Edwin Ekiring of Uganda, Bjorn Seguin of USA and Stacey Doubell of South Africa and a few other top-ranked players from Mexico, South Africa and Jamaica. The players are not quite the creme de la creme, but Aditya says he wanted to ensure that there was not too much of a
Tamilnadu League gulf in the standards between the local and international players. “We didn’t want the TN girls to be totally outplayed by the international girls,” he says. “After all, the emphasis is on entertainment.” The ‘badminton extravaganza’, as it is being billed, will be held from 1st June to 10th June. The event will be preceded by an open camp at which any child could enroll and get to see the top players up close.
Big money for players. The country’s first badminton league to have foreign players won its first big test during the auction held at a threestar hotel in Chennai which saw owners spending liberally for players with former world No.11 Chetan Anand winning a bid of Rs 1.75 lakh from the Chennai-based team Dazzle Force. Six teams – two from Chennai, and one each from smaller cities like Coimbatore, Erode, Trichy and Madurai – have thrown their hats in the ring,
“The auction went off successfully. Everyone was happy. Some of the team owners are into sport, while others are looking at the branding opportunity. We had organized a ten-day camp for players, and some of the owners observed the players. We had also provided statistics on each player and that helped them choose their team. Most of the matches will be in Chennai, but a couple will be held at Coimbatore too.” Aditya himself won a bid for Rs 95,000 (Covai Panthers). The second-highest bid of Rs 1.30 lakh was for Malaysian Yogendran Krishnan(Chennai Singams) followed by Rs.1.20 lakhs by Tamil Nadu player Velavan (Temple City Knights) and Stacey Doubell of South Africa(Delta Warriors), while 17-year-old Kanti Visalakshi won Rs 80,000( Chennai Singams). The other big winners at the auction were USA’s Bjorn Seguin & Mexico’s Mariana Ugalde(Dazzle Force) (Rs 1 lakh each) and Edwin Ekiring of Uganda(Dazzle Force) (Rs 90,000). The league will offer a total prize money of Rs 9 lakh, out of which the winners will take Rs 4 lakh and the runners-up Rs 2 lakh. The two losing semi-finalists will be given Rs 75,000 each. Apart from this, winners of each tie will make Rs 10,000. With the league being taken to places such as Coimbatore, multiple clubs and shopping malls, it will be interesting to see if Indian badminton takes a new turn. With an Indian Badminton League expected to take shape soon, badminton sure seems to be in the spotlight. The six teams: Dazzle Force, Chennai Singams (both Chennai); Erode Eagles (Erode); Temple City Knights (Madurai); Covai Panthers (Coimbatore) and Delta Warriors (Trichy).
GUTS - A Window into World Badminton
April - May 2012
Saurabh and Sindhu triumph Double for Arun Vishu The Nationals which saw an army of youngsters storming into the elite group toppling almost all seniors in Indian badminton. T.R. Balachandran
the talented and imposing trio of Chetan Anand, Anup Sridhar and Arvind Bhat, who have, amongst them, won eight national titles. This year, the younger lot have donned that mantle.
PV Sindhu and Saurabh Verma
he 67th Inter-state & 76th National Badminton Championships were held at KBA from 17th to 25th January 2012. This is the third time that Karnataka and Bangalore have hosted this premier national event. The first time was as far back as 1962, when the tournament took place under a mere makeshift pandal; the second was just six years ago. Terming it an inter-state event has become a mere formality, what with the all-powerful PSPB winning the Rahimtoola and Chaddha Cup right from the time they entered the competition. This year was no different, with PSPB defeating Air India to win both the titles in the finals. The men’s singles was robbed of some sheen when the top two Indians in the international circuit - Ajay Jayaram and P. Kashyap - decided to stay away. The same was the case with the other events, with Saina Nehwal (Women’s Singles), Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa (Women’s Doubles) and Jwala and Diju (Mixed Doubles) giving the nationals a miss. In fact, Saina has not played the nationals since 2009, and Jwala since 2011. It is understood that BAI has taken steps to make participation
in the nationals mandatory for all the top players, as their absence is taking a toll on the organisers’ ability to rope in sponsors and to attract both an audience and media attention. Nonetheless, the Men’s Singles witnessed a huge crowd and stiff competition, with the qualifiers having to come through five rounds in two days to reach the main draw. The word is that BAI has plans to limit the number of entries in the qualifying rounds of both the nationals and open
Senior NationalS tournaments. This may be a welcome move, as it will definitely improve the quality of competition, especially since the players will not have to go through several rounds of elimination before they enter the main draw. However, the need for two-tier tournaments will arise, where the lesser ranked players will get an entry to play at a national level. The men’s singles is always the most competitive segment of the nationals in India. This year saw the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. The period from 2004 to 2011 was the era of
Chetan conceded his match due to a freak injury he suffered in the gym a few weeks ago. Anup faced Saurabh Verma in the second round and lost to him after a tense second set. Arvind, the defending champion, lost to Anand Pawar in the pre-quarters, thus paving the way for the reign of the next generation of players. In the matches leading up to the semis, the duel between local boy Aditya Prakash and Nandagopal was electric. Almost down and out at 14-20 in the third, Aditya played brilliantly to make it 20-20, before Nandu edged home 22-20. Another sterling encounter was Arvind’s tense match against Sameer Verma where he had to pull out all stops before winning 21-17 in the third. However, the match of the tournament was surely the semi-final between Saurabh Pradnya Gadre and Prajakta Sawant
>9 Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan
and came up on top almost each time. Both veterans faltered at the net and even their judgement failed at crucial junctures. Thus, the curtains fell on one most of the most enduring sagas of badminton in India. However, it is yet to be seen whether the mantle of Men’s doubles supremacy will be passed on to a younger duo. Only time will tell.
Verma and Prannoy. After losing the first game 21-23, Saurabh stared down the barrel at 18-20 in the second. It could have been over there for Saurabh, as at match point Prannoy’s drop into no man’s land went a millimetre astray. As he has done several times in his career, Saurabh steeled himself and played near flawless badminton when it mattered most, and emerged victorious 21-23, 22-20, 21-16. Saurabh’s capacity to play flawlessly in the crucial points of the game marks him out as a champion - youngsters would do well to develop this rare and admirable quality. Sai Praneeth, pipped by Kashyap in last year’s semi-finals, did one better this year, beating a stale Anand Pawar in this year’s semi. Anand was a pale shadow of the player who had beaten Arvind and Guru in the previous rounds. The final was also a close affair, with the score reading 19-19 in both the games. Saurabh showed better character and desire, thus emerging victorious. With regard to the women’s singles, it was almost a foregone conclusion that P V Sindhu would be the new national champion in the absence of Saina. Even last year, she was unlucky to lose to eventual finalist Arundhati in the quarters, after holding match points. Sindhu was dragged to three
games by Tanvi Lad in the team event, and by top seed Thulasi in the quarter finals. But on both occasions, it was clear that she could comfortably win by the third game. The TATA Open last month in Mumbai saw a spirited three setter between Sayali and Sindhu in the finals, but Sayali fell to Neha in the semis. Sindhu snuffed out Neha’s challenge in straight games 21-9, 21-14 to lift her first national singles title. The question of every badminton enthusiast at the beginning of the Bangalore nationals was whether Rupesh Kumar would win his 10th consecutive national men’s doubles title. Rupesh has amassed an impressive total of nine consecutive national men’s doubles titles - two in the company of Markose Bristow and the remaining seven with Sanave Thomas. However, his odds seemed weak against history, for no one had ever won ten consecutive national titles previously. Prakash Padukone lost in the finals of his tenth consecutive national Men’s Singles finals to Syed Modi in Vijayawada in 1981. Aparna Popat who also won nine consecutive women’s singles titles could not defend her title in Patna in 2007. Rupesh and Sanave had fallen to a very rare defeat at the hands of Akshay Dewalker and Pranav Chopra in the finals of the TATA Open in Mumbai in January. However, when they met again in the semis of the nationals, it was a plain rout, and Sanave and Rupesh took revenge by summarily dismissing Akshay and Pranav 21-17, 2111. So impressive was their demolition of the second best team of the country that many fans and players started commenting that they should retire the next year after winning their tenth title together. Unfortunately for Rupesh and Sanave, they chose to play at their worst on a day when their opponents, Arun Vishnu and Tarun, played their very best. The result was an edge-of-the-seat win for the youngsters at 21-16, 16-21, 21-18. Tarun took on the seemingly invincible Rupesh at the net,
With respect to women’s doubles, India has finally secured a second team in Pradnya Gadre and Prajakta Sawant after several years of experimentation. This pair has had a very good first year in International badminton and they have already won their first international title at the Swiss Open 2011, in addition to the runner up finish at the Bulgarian international. Pradnya and Prajakta won the national title, beating Aparna Balan and Sikki Reddy. Prajakta won the Women’s Doubles last year as well, in the company of Aparna Balan. In the mixed doubles, India can boast of three equally matched teams after their top pair of Diju and Jwala. They are Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan, Pranav Chopra and Prajakta Sawant and Akshay Dewalkar and Pradnya Gadre. Bangalore proved lucky for Arun Vishnu, and he added the mixed doubles title to his men’s doubles title. He and Aparna had a close shave against Akshay and Pradnya who served a match point against them in the semis at 20-19 in the third game. The final was also a touch and go affair against Pranav and Prajakta, 21-16, 17-21, 21-19. The 76th National Badminton Championships have proved that India is emerging as a new power in world badminton with the talent and hard work of youngsters: a sure formula for success. Rupesh Kumar
GUTS - A Window into World Badminton
April - May 2012
The death of the high serve because players are reluctant to concede the advantage of attack. “The scoring system has a lot to do with it. The drift in most halls too plays a major role. If you’re serving with the drift, it’s very difficult to control the shuttle– if you serve high the shuttle will fall out by a couple of feet at least. Generally, players tend to serve high when they’re against the wind.
Dev S.Kumar looks into the current trend of Singles players preferring the low serve to the high. Is the scoring system or the drift or the players just don’t spend enough time practising the serve is the culprit?
udy Devlin Hashman, one of the greatest-ever names of badminton, expressed barely a flicker of interest in the proceedings on the second day of the India Open Superseries. Taufik Hidayat was on court, but she hadn’t heard the name. “They all play alike now,” she said. Then she asked: “Why is nobody serving high?” The question encapsulated a lot of the limitations of contemporary badminton. I remember I’d asked the question of Taufik at the Malaysia Open last year. Taufik has all but sacrificed the high serve. In all the tournaments I’ve seen him, his standard opening line is the backhand short serve – and he never varies it. At the Malaysia Open I had the rare sight of him attempting one high serve, and I asked him later why he didn’t use it more often. “Because the opponent will attack,” Taufik said. Coming from Taufik, that was a surprise. The Indonesian has perhaps the tightest control over the shuttle among all his contemporaries, and his defence is usually unbreachable, especially if the smash comes from the back court. What then was he scared of? Taufik’s position on the serve is the consensus among most international players. At best, they use the high serve as a variant, not to fire the opening salvo, but to keep the receiver from rushing the serve. I posed the question to Judy. “Well, if you don’t serve deep enough, they’ll smash it,” was her commonsense reply. “But I divided the back alley (the rectangular space between the baseline and the long service line for doubles: a space of 2.5 feet) into three, and my serve had to fall in the last third. If you serve accurately into that space, often your opponent will misjudge it. If she returns it, I still have so much space to play the shuttle into.” In other words: the high serve can be a potent weapon because the receiver has
already been moved away from the centre of the court. Of course, it can be a weapon only if it is accurate and well-controlled – that is, with the drift in the hall (assuming there is drift) accounted for. Taufik Hidayat Judy Hashman’s precision was so renowned that one commentator wrote that the lines moved to where the shuttle was hit. The Indian great Prakash Padukone was also a master of the high serve, with one journalist recalling that his high serve would find the line “nine times out of ten”.
Still, it’s undeniable that current players do not practice the high serve as often as earlier generations did. The emphasis over the last ten years has been on speed, power and fitness, rather than on the more subtle aspects of the game. Anup’s coach Tom John, who has worked with the likes of Morten Frost, Yang Yang and Rexy Mainaky, acknowledges that current players do not spend enough time perfecting the serve or even tosses. “I don’t think drift is the issue,” says Tom. “Players just don’t spend enough time practising the serve.” Former National coach and former national singles champion Vimal Kumar says,”In singles both high and low serves are very important. Now players do not have the confidence in serving high.Players need to understand that a good deep high serve cannot be just smashed to score an outright point.The problem is that players do not practice enough in perfecting that and in the present scoring system a poor serve can cost you a point.Both high and low serves are still very relevant”.
Judy recalled an interesting story. There was only one match, she said, that she played in anger. That was because her opponent had walked around the stands telling everybody that she would beat Judy.“The thing with the high serve is, hit right, the cork will come down perpendicular to the face of the racket, and it’s difficult to time the return,” says Judy. “So I served high and she mistimed her stroke, and I thought: “Now I’ve gotcha!’”
With players preferring the low serve to the high, singles badminton is beginning to resemble doubles. Most avoid the high clears – either due to fear of it being smashed down, or the drift carrying it away – and singles games, like doubles, have become a parallel game almost, with fast drives, net shots, clips and half-smashes. The ‘vertical’ elements of the high serve and clear – not to speak of the tumble or the slow drop — which were an inherent part of strokeplay earlier, have all but been compromised.
However, players of this generation have no doubt that the high serve is too risky in the contemporary context. Anup Sridhar, who generally uses the high serve more than his compatriots, grew up on the 15×3 points system and had to adjust to the 21×3. Anup says the points system makes a difference
Those used to the speed of the modern game will scoff at the traditionalists, but one must acknowledge that some vital components of the game have been lost. Perhaps the field is open to the next visionary player who uses these elements to his advantage.
April - May 2012
India shuttlers create history into the London Olympics. Ashwini and Jwala have won a bronze medal in World Championships 2011 and Gold medal in Commonwealth Games 2010 and are surely a medal prospect for India. Mixed doubles team of Jwala and Diju are also keen to put on a good show during the Games. Saina Nehwal, the young badminton sensation will be leading the pack and the country is expecting a medal from her. She might have lost in 2nd round in Indian Open but World No. 5 Saina has her eyes set on winning gold at London Olympics in 2012. Parupalli Kashyap will be the Indian hope in Men’s Singles after he was able to make it to semifinals of Indian Open Super series. He just managed to sneak ahead of Ajay Jayaram in term of ranking points by making it to last four and qualifying for London Games
he Indian Badminton players created history by qualifying for the first time into four different categories in an Olympic calendar year. This will be the very first time when an Indian contingent will feature in Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed doubles in Olympics together. This was confirmed after the Indian Open Super Series event concluded on 29th April 2012. For the first time in the Olympics history, Indian badminton team will take part in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events. In women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will be leading the Indian
challenge, while in the mixed doubles; V. Diju will be partnering Jwala. It’s a dream come true for Jwala Gutta who created history by gaining a direct entry
Indian Badminton Team for Olympics: • Men’s Singles: Parupalli Kashyap • Women’s Singles: Saina Nehwal • Women’s Doubles: Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa • Mixed Doubles: Jwala Gutta and V. Diju
National coach P. Gopi Chand is optimistic: “What is exciting is that we have a good bunch of young players in Sai Praneeth, H.S. Prannoy, K. Srikant, Sourabh and Sameer Verma. Along with Kashyap and Jayaram, this means a bunch of eight-10 prospects that no other country has. P.V. Sindhu is coming up, and she’s young. If you look around, you’ll see that other countries are struggling to produce players. Even Denmark doesn’t have a prospect in the women’s singles after Tine Baun. We already have two good players in Saina and Sindhu.” Gopi Chand is unsure yet if any of the men can make the top 10, but states that India now stand as good a chance as any other team. “There’s a huge scope for India to do well, but there should also be willingness from the players. These are exciting times, it’s a great challenge,” says Gopi Chand.
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