Badminton is a tricky sport. There is power, agility, and stamina–then there is deception. Within a very short span of time, players have to show almost every aspect of their personality, caliber, and technique that they have acquired through hours of practice. Yet, over the years, the results of one of the most cherished tournaments and series defy the logic. Sometimes, you just are not able to win though you have done everything, and more importantly, you have everything that is expected from a player who would be the champion of those tournaments.
Change in Playing Style
Like any other game, Badminton has evolved from various practices and rules to its present form, where every game has to be of 21 at least points to make a win, and if the players are locked at 20-20, a two-point difference is needed to make the win. Consequently, the game-style has also changed.
I remember reading an article long back when Pullela Gopichand used to play and how the rule of reducing a game to 11 points made him lose many matches–the analysis was that he loved to play a slow game and get the opponent tired to win his matches. However, a short game of 11 points does not really suit his style because it involves a very fast paced game.
Similarly, when you consider the matches of women players including that Li Xuerui, Wang Yihan and other players of the recent past, you will notice that they use to play longer rallies, which are almost missing in the present-day matches that someone like Akane Yamaguchi, Tai Tzu Ying, Ratchanok Intanon, Carolina Marin or even Nozomi Okuhara play. These modern players depend so much on precision and deception–they want to close a point pretty quickly and don’t want to get tired. Though many Indian players have done well in the recent past, their game-style seems to be involving longer rallies instead of going for the kill. This is the reason why, both Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu recently have been out of sorts against some of the younger players, though they have done everything that a top-level player is expected to do.
Winning the Grand Slams of Badminton
What I wanted to write in this article is a thought that sometimes troubles me whenever I am watching a badminton match. Who is a great badminton player? It happened recently while watching the China Open Super Series (Premium) 2017. Is winning the Olympics Gold or the World Championships or many numbers Super Series etc. make you great? Well, the stats are confusing about this.
What I consider as the Grand Slams of Badminton are these tournaments: Olympics, World Championship, and the All-England Championship. A player who has won all these tournaments is considered a great badminton player by all means. In the present group of players, only three players stand out for this–Lin Dan, Chen Long and Carolina Marin.
Surprisingly, Lee Chong Wei and Saina Nehwal are missing from this list. Lee Chong Wei is the biggest surprise because he has lost three Olympics finals and three World Championship finals. Yet, he is and widely considered as one of the greatest players to ever pick a racket. He is still a big threat to any younger player in whichever tournament he participates in. Lin Dan on the other hand–his contemporary and equally talented–has won all the possible tournaments.
Now, consider Saina’s case. She is considered as the pioneer of women’s badminton in India. She has done her country proud on a number of occasions. However, she could only win a bronze in Olympics, a silver in World Championship and a silver in All-England championship. Carolina Marin, on the other hand, has won all the three–she is widely considered her ultimate opponent. The rising star P V Sindhu also has silver in both Olympics and World Championships, yet she is also considered one of the power-houses of Badminton.
Much remains to be analyzed
The point I want to make is this–Badminton is such a flimsy and tricky game that though you may be a great player with a flawless technique, you may lose a game on any day and to any player. It does not care about your past repute. The only thing that matters is how you play on that particular day–how many errors you do not make, and how much you are willing to give in on that particular day.