Friday, December 22, 2006

Asian Games- I

I'm back to writing again after a long break. I'm trying to figure out how to manage my time more efficiently so I can find more time to write so forgive me for the delay.
The Asian Games recently came to an end and India did quite well. I'm not too sure about how we did compared with the previous edition in Busan,Korea but I think we were better this time around.
As far as badminton goes, the team championships actually started on 30th November, a day before the opening ceremony. This seemed strange to me but there were some other sports that started on the same day. There were a total of 9 countries in the team championships with 3 groups of 3 teams each. India was placed in Group A along with China and Indonesia! To top it off, the schedule was such that we played both China and Indonesia on the same day! This was extremely surprising considering our creditable performance in the Thomas Cup and Commonwealth Games, specially since the other groups were much easier than ours. But then again, IBF or BWF or whatever it is called now has a history of making clueless decisions so this crazy draw did'nt really surprise me too much.
So, it was China that we were up against on 30th Morning. We lost 0-5, but considering that China won all their matches in the Thomas Cup without dropping a single match, it was always going to be very hard. There were a few games where we came close, with me losing my first game against World no.1 Lin Dan 19-21 and Kashyap losing his second game to Chen Jin 19-21.
Later that day we played Indonesia. Once again we lost 0-5 but it was a much tougher fight than the score suggests. I played first singles against Taufik Hidayat, the reigning Olympic Champion and lost 21-23,16-21. I was extremely close in the first game and really should have won it. I get a little too anxious in the end and Taufik was getting better and better. I was close in the second game as well until 16-16 but then again made a few unforced errors which I could'nt afford and lost it at 16-21.
Kashyap then played a very good match against Simon Santoso and almost won but Simon proved to be better at the crucial points and ended up winning 21-16 in the third game. Both out mens doubles pairs also gave a very tough fight to the Indonesian pairs and lost in 3 games.
I enjoyed playing Lin Dan and Taufik and found that while playing at this high level, I cant afford to give away easy points. It becomes too hard to fight back if I give away even a few unforced errors in a game. Also, its extremely important to be able to keep focused and have a clear mind when the score is close and the game is coming to an end. I found both Lin Dan and Taufik raising their game and playing at a faster pace towards the end of the game, just when they needed to.

The opening ceremony was held the next day on 1st November. It was the first time I was going to an opening ceremony of a Multi Sport event like this since at the Commonwealth games in March, I did'nt attend the opening as I had a match on the next day. It turned out to be very disappointing. All athletes were taken to a gym where we sat waiting for about 3 1/2 hours. There were a couple of big screens where we could watch the ceremony going on in a stadium next door. To be frank, it was pretty boring to watch on the screen, could'nt understand half the stuff that was going on. But it was a chance to catch up with Indian athletes from other sports so it was'nt a total loss. We were eventually led to the stadium where we walked around the stadium once and waited for the other teams to come in. After all the teams were in, there were a few speeches made, not really sure about what but they seemed pretty long cos we were standing the whole time. The fireworks display towards the end of the ceremony was very nice, as expected, so that cheered us up. After the ceremony we were making our way along with all the other athletes to the exit when it actually started to rain. Considering the fact that we were in a desert, it was a big surprise. The rain started off slowly but was soon a heavy downpour. All of us got wet, were led around in circles until we finally spotted the buses and managed to get in. We were all completely drenched in the rain and it was also very cold so it was'nt a happy end to my first opening ceremony. I dont think I'll be attending too many of those in the future.

The individual events started off on the 5th of December and got over on the 9th. I'll write about that in the next post. Hope you had fun reading this one. Please leave your comments!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Some disappointing results

I’m finally down to writing my thoughts on my results at the Korea Open, Hong Kong Open and the World Championships.
Starting off with the Korea Open: I played Li Yu from China in the first round. I won 22-20,18-21,21-19. I didn’t feel I played too well in this match, but the conditions were very tough -- with a lot of wind in the hall and difficult lighting to get used to.
I played Dicky Palyama of Holland in the second round and I felt pretty good about this match, considering I’d beaten him a few weeks ago in Singapore. But this time I lost 21-16,14-21,18-21. I was okay in the first game but it started to go wrong right from the start of the second. Dicky was better prepared to play me this time and he anticipated a lot of my smashes. I should still have won, but with the new scoring system sometimes the game gets over before you realise what happened.
At Hong Kong, I played Yogendran Krishnan of Malaysia in the first round. I lost 21-14,17-21,14-21. Again, I started off well, but I wasn’t able to keep it up. Yogendran also had a good match, and he was pulling off pretty much any stroke he played.

Injury strikes
The World Championships returned to Spain this year after a gap of five years. It was held in Seville in 2001.
The team had had a camp of about two weeks in Hyderabad before leaving for Seville. Unfortunately, a few days before we were to leave, I hurt my right calf muscle. Doctors in Hyderabad told me there was no muscle tear but that it was a case of acute strain of the muscle.
As a result I wasn’t really able to do any training for about a week before my match. I took a lot of physiotherapy treatment in Hyderabad and on reaching Madrid. This didn’t have the desired effect though, and I wasn’t 100% while playing my first round against Liao Sheng Shiun of Chinese Taipei. I lost 21-19,16-21,14-21.
This was a strange match for me because I was unable to jump sideways comfortably so I was constantly using makeshift movements. It was no surprise then that I lost to a lower ranked player.
So my first World Championships didn’t turn out to be as great as I hoped but I’m remaining positive and am currently getting treatment for my calf in Bangalore. I’m not sure yet what tournament I will play next as it depends on how soon I can get back to 100% fitness.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

New Post

Hello everyone,
Sorry about not updating the blog in the last couple of months. I've been travelling a lot lately and with the new airline regulations, ,I have not had my computer with me. I will shortly upload my reviews of 3 tournaments I played recently, Korea Open, Hong Kong Open and the World Championships in Madrid. I have had a few ordinary results but I figure its not fair to only update my good results. Expect these within a weeks time. I'm also trying to add a couple of features like online auctions of badminton memorabilia, forums for discussion of various topics relating to badminton etc. Let me know if you would like to see something like this on the blog.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pitted against the world no.2 and the ref

Malaysia Open: By the time we arrived in Kuching for the Malaysia Open, we had been on the tour for more than three weeks and getting tired of having to adjust to different kinds of food, playing conditions etc. I beat Jean Michel Lefort of France in the first round 22-20, 21-11. The first game was close, but I could see that Lefort was tiring at the end of it and managed to win the second game quite easily.

In the second round, I played Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the world No.2 and defending champion. I lost the first game 13-21 and was down 13-8 in the second before I found my rhythm. I knew that if I kept cool and remained focussed I would have a chance at some point in the match.

I could see that Lee was distracted in the latter half of the second game and capitalized on that to win it 21-17. In the third game, the umpire, being Malaysian, was totally biased in Lee’s favour and was very unfair to me. She even gave me a red card for just asking to talk to the chief referee. A red card means that the opponent is given one point. This is usually shown to a player who is abusive to his/her opponent and the umpire. All I did here was ask to talk to the referee and I was shown a red card.

I lost my focus at that point and went down 13-21 in the third game. This meant that my Asian tour had come to an end. Arvind Bhat came up with a brilliant straight sets win over Kenneth Jonassen in the second round but failed to get past the next hurdle, losing to Roman Spitko of Germany in the last 16 stage.

All in all, I had a successful Asian tour with my ranking going up about 30 places from 65 to 35. I had some very good wins and have also learned what I need to work on to get better. My next international tournament will probably be the World Championships in September.

Cracking the top 35

Singapore Open: The Singapore Open was to be held in the Singapore Indoor stadium as it has been for many years now. This is a very big stadium with a huge gallery and also with a lot of wind inside the playing hall. I had lost in the first round here last year.

This year, in the first round, I was to play world No.19 and 5/8 seed Dicky Palyama of the Netherlands. Again, I had seen him play before but this was our first match against each other. I won 30-28, 21-17 to make it the best win of my career so far.

The first game, as the score suggests, was very close and I saved five game points and needed nine game points before I closed it out. Winning such a close first game meant that I had a big psychological advantage at the start of the second game. I went up by a big margin immediately and closed out the second game at 21-17.
I played Lu Yi, another young Chinese player, in the second round. Lu Yi had just beaten Chetan Anand in the Indonesia Open and was in good form. I had a good strategy for this match and I handled the drift (wind) in the hall well to win 21-18, 21-16.

In the third round, the last 16 stage, I played Andrew Smith of England. Smith has been around on the circuit for a long time and can be a difficult opponent. But by this time I had adjusted very well to the playing conditions and I won quite easily, 21-9, 21-16, to enter the quarterfinal.

I lost to Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark, the world No.5, 15-21, 15-21 in the quarterfinal the next day. I was a little unlucky in the second game with three line calls going against me. These bad calls can make so much of a difference when the scores are level and I was not able to recover in time and lost in straight games.
Still, reaching the quarterfinal was a great result and my world ranking went up another eight places to 35, which is my best-ever ranking. Apart from Chetan, who reached the last 16 stage, the other Indians lost in the first and second rounds.

Pre-quarters at Surabaya

Indonesia Open: We arrived in Surabaya the day after the big earthquake in Indonesia and were a bit worried but Surabaya was not affected by the quake. The Indonesia Open was to be a 6-star event, meaning there would be a lot of ranking points on offer here.

Taufik Hidayat, the current World and Olympic Champion, has a great record here having won this event five times already. I was up against Shoji Sato in the first round, the 9/16 seed from Japan. Sato has been in great form, having beaten Taufik Hidayat in the Thomas Cup finals in Japan in May.

I had watched him play before but this was our first match. I won 21-18, 17-21, 21-19. I had a good strategy in this match and was able to execute it well enough to win. Sato is very quick around the court, probably the quickest in the world, but has trouble keeping up the speed as he gets tired playing at that fast pace. I knew there would be some rallies where I would have no chance at all because he is so quick. But I also knew that if I was able to hang on for a few rallies at the fast pace, Sato would tire and give me some easy points. In the end, I feel I won because I was fitter than him.

In the second round I beat Bo Rafn of Denmark 21-10, 21-12. I was accustomed to the conditions on court by now and had a great match against Bo. In the third round, the last 16 stage, I was up against Qui Yanbo, a young Chinese. I lost to Yanbo 15-21, 19-21. Towards the end of the match, I could see that Yanbo was very tired and I would’ve had the advantage in the third game if I’d won the second, but I just didn’t play well enough in the closing stages of the second game and lost in straight sets.

Excepting me and Kashyap, who lost in the second round, nobody in the our men's singles team managed to get past the first round. Getting to the last 16 stage in a 6-star event was a good result for me, and I went up about 15 places on the world rankings after this result.

Saina rules at Manila

Philippines Open: This was the first of four tournaments that the Indian team was to participate in. I played a local player, Bartolomew, in the first round. I won 14-21, 21-8, 22-20. It shouldn’t have been such a close match but I was a little overconfident and paid the price for it.

With the new 21 rally point scoring system it is very important to remain focussed throughout a match even if it is easy as it can get close very quickly. I didn’t exactly have the best start to the tournament and I ended up losing in the next round to 9/16 seed Kendrick Lee of Singapore 22-20, 19-21, 19-21. I had beaten Lee in the Commonwealth Games in March, but this time he managed to play better in the closing stages of the second and third games and won in three tough games.

Arvind and Chetan got to the last 16 stage losing to Ng Wei and Roslin Hashim respectively.

But the story of the tournament has to be Saina Nehwal’s first Grand Prix victory. She was unseeded and ranked 85 at the start of the tournament. Saina beat Xu Haiwen of Germany in the quarterfinal, which is probably the biggest win ever by any Indian woman as Xu is ranked No.4 in the world. Saina went on to beat unseeded but good players in the semifinal (Ai Goto) and final (Julia Wong) and thus won her first Grand Prix event.

What was striking to me was that she played very confidently even though she is only 16 and hasn’t had too much experience in international badminton. This is surely the biggest achievement ever by an Indian woman in badminton. She has shown that there are no rules anymore, anything is possible.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hello Everyone

Sorry I have'nt been updating the blog for the last few weeks. A combination of limited internet access and not having enough time is why I have'nt posted anything new yet.I am currently participating in the Malaysian Open and will run into Lee Chong Wei tomorrow in the second round. This is the last of four tournaments that I have now played consecutively. I will put up reports of the 4 tournaments as well as a couple more posts when I am back in India. Expect these posts in about a week or so! Thank you for the words of encouragement and for the visits. Please keep visiting!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Q and A

Hello everyone. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about what I've written or on any other topic. Leave your questions either as a comment or on the online chat window you see on the right of your screen and I will get to it as soon as possible. Suggestions on what to change or introduce on the blog are welcome.

Memories of Thomas Cup Finals (Japan):

One thing that I am sure every player will remember is the courtesy of our hosts,the Japanese.The staff and officials always had a smile on their faces and were always happy to help us out with any problem we had. The organisation of the whole event; hotel room bookings, transport to and from the badminton hall,everything was handled with great efficiency. One person I would like to mention in particular is the liason officer of our team, Tomosayu. He made sure that the Indian team always had all relevant information and that we had an enjoyable stay in Japan.
Though we did'nt really finish with a flourish, going down easily to Denmark, we achieved our target of making it to the quarterfinals. Coupled with good performances in the Thomas Cup Preliminaries and the Commonwealth Games and some good individual performances, India, as a team is looking considerably stronger than it has been for a long time. Most of the credit for this goes to our national coach Vimal Kumar and to the doubles coach Hadi Sugianto, an Indonesian. He has improved the standard of Indian doubles to the extent that we can now expect them to come through for us when we really need it. Vimal Kumar has done a similar job with the singles players and we will miss him now that he has resigned.

Outplayed by Denmark

3rd May'06,(Tokyo):
We played Denmark today and lost 0-3. Chetan was up first against Peter Gade and he lost in straight games. Peter Gade has been one of the most consistent players in the last 7-8 years and has always been in the top 10 on the world ranking list. I was up next against Kenneth Jonassen who is also in the top 10 in the world. I lost in straight games also,the scoreline reading 12-21,10-21. I did'nt feel like I played as well as I could have today but maybe that was because Jonassen just did'nt allow me to play my game. He is very consistent and makes very few unforced errors, always making you earn your points. That is something I will try to develop myself, wont be easy but it is very important. The first doubles was next and Rupesh and Diju played well against the Danish pair of LundgÄrd Hansen and Jens Erickssen losing in two tough games. The way Rupesh and Diju handled the difficult conditions on court was very impressive. But their loss meant that we were out of the Thomas Cup, having lost 0-3.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Achieved our goal of reaching the quarters

1 May ’06, Sendai:
We've just beaten New Zealand 3-0. The New Zealand team was at a disadvantage as two of their players were injured. However, in our team, Chetan said he didn’t want to play as he had blisters on his feet. So I was gonna play first singles, which was perfectly fine with me. New Zealand's only real threat was John Moody, their first singles player. He’s ranked 32 in the world and has been in good form. In fact he'd beaten me in both our previous matches. My current ranking is 64, so it would be quite a big upset to beat him.

I knew from our previous matches that he was a steady player with good temperament and a good smash. I started off pretty well in the first game and was always up by at least two points. He came close to me at 11-12 but I moved ahead and closed the first game out at 21-15. The other players from New Zealand who were cheering for Moody were being pretty loud but I was able to keep the focus on court. I felt much better on court in the second game and went up by a big margin right from the start. I didn’t ease off the pressure and closed out the match at 21-9. The scoreline 21-15, 21-9 proved that the work I have been putting in practice has paid off.

Arvind beat youngster Henry Tam in the second singles in straight games. Henry came close to Arvind in the first game but was outclassed in the second.

Nikhil, who was to play third singles as Chetan didn’t want to play, was up next against Craig Cooper, a doubles player who was forced to play singles as New Zealand's regular third singles player was injured. Nikhil won the first game easily but was very out-of-sorts in the second and lost 17-21. He however regrouped to win an easy third game to give India the victory at 3-0! This meant that we had entered the quarterfinals of the Thomas Cup!!!

When we qualified for the Thomas Cup final round in February and saw our draw, we were told by our coaches to aim to reach the quarterfinals as that would be a good result. We will now move to Tokyo for the latter stages of the tournament and will face Denmark on 3rd May. Denmark is a very strong team with the likes of Peter Gade, Kenneth Jonassen, Jonas Rasmussen and Lars Paaske in their team. It will be a very tough match but we're in pretty good form and should be able to give them a run for their money in a couple of the singles matches. But no matter who we play against, we will go all out in this tie as we have nothing to lose.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Outlasted Conrad

29 April '06
Just through with our match against Germany and we won 3-2! Chetan lost his first singles match against Bjorn Joppien. Bjorn played well, but I was a little surprised that Chetan fell in straight sets as Arvind had beaten Bjorn last time they played. I'd also taken a game off him when I played Bjorn a year ago.

I played Conrad Hueckstaedt next in the second singles. I won 22-20, 14-21, 21-6. This was the first time I played Conrad though I'd seen him playing before. I felt he played really well, but the only reason I lost the second game was because I decided to take chances and go for the lines and ended up making too many errors. I could see that he was tiring by the end of the second game so I changed my strategy for the third. I played a little safer and decided to wear him down. There were some long rallies at the start of the third game and I guess he was very tired by then. I kept up the pace and moved him around a lot and won easily at 21-6.

Arvind beat Roman Spitko next in the third singles and beat him in three games. The third game was quite close but Arvind always had a lead of 2-3 points and finished it off successfully.

Thomas Kurien and Jaseel Ismail played next and lost rather easily to Ingo and Hopp in straight games. The last and deciding match as between Rupesh and Diju, our scratch combination against Fuchs and Spitko. Rupesh and Diju won a close first game and then went on to win the second quite easily giving us the third point and thus the win over Germany! We will now play New Zealand in the pre-quarterfinals on 1st May.

Not a bad show against China

28 April
We've just finished our match against China and we lost 0-5. The score sounds bad but considering the fact that China are the defending champions and the fact that most us gave a good account of ourselves, it’s not too bad. Chetan managed to take a game off the world No.1 Lin Dan. Lin didn’t really look very good today but that doesn’t mean Chetan didn’t play well.

I lost to Chen Jin 14-21,10-21. Chen is just coming off a win in the China Masters and he’s in great form. I ran him close in the first game but he just seemed to have better control on the game than I did. I was almost always following his pace, very rarely setting the pace myself, which I'm good at. I guess the fact that this was the first time I played in the main hall also made a difference. We play Germany tomorrow, and the tie is important if we have to move on to the quarterfinal.

Off to Japan!

Earlier in the year, the Indian men’s team made it to the semifinals of the Thomas Cup Preliminary Rounds held in Jaipur in February 2006. This meant that we had qualified for the final rounds of the Thomas Cup after a gap of six years and only for the fifth time ever in Indian badminton history. In preparation for the final rounds, we went through a 16-day camp at the KBA stadium in Bangalore. This stadium offers ten badminton courts in excellent condition including four 'hova’ courts, a feature that is not very common in India. The stadium also has a world class gym and a small swimming pool, so that makes it arguably the best badminton facility in India. I was doing more physical training in the camp than usual as it had been a while since I'd done any hard training.

As is always the case, we (players and coaches) only got to know our travel arrangements the day before we left, and we received our passports and tickets only a few hours before we were supposed to leave. I can’t figure why this happens every single time, but I can’t afford to be bothered by it as it is never going to change. It was like this during Prakash Sir's time and it will be like this always. And so we were off on the night of 25th April 2006. Our flight route was as follows: Bangalore-Bangkok-Tokyo-Sendai. It was a long journey, and especially tiring by the wait at every airport. It took us about a day to reach Sendai, where the group matches would be held. We would need to enter the quarterfinals to enter the next stage of the tournament in Tokyo.

Being placed in the same group as China and Germany, that isn’t going to be easy. We only had one practice session in a practice hall as the main hall was being readied for the matches. This is a definite disadvantage as all other countries have practiced in the main hall and they'll be better adjusted to the conditions.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My stint in Denmark

In June 2005 I decided along with my coaches Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar that it would be a good learning experience to move to Denmark and play for a club for one season. It would no doubt help me to play with Denmark’s best players and it would also make travelling around Europe to play in international tournaments very easy if I was based in Denmark. So with this I mind I left for Copenhagen on August 26th 2005.

I’ve to take care of everything?
I was met at the airport by Kasper Fangel, coach of Skaelskor Badminton Club, the club I was to represent. Kasper was only 26, but he was already semi-retired, playing only in the Danish league. He drove me to his office where we had lunch (a sandwich, what kind of a lunch is that?) and had a talk regarding where I would live, what would my schedule be during the week, which tournament I would participate in during my stay there, etc. I thought I would leave after the meeting to go to Skaelskor (where I would live with three other players of the same club), but I was wrong. Kasper informed me, very matter-of-factly, that we would first have a training session in Copenhagen, after which I would go home!

I had just been through a 26-hour journey, what with all the waiting in various airports and the many connections I was forced to make as a result of booking my tickets late. I went along for the training as I didn’t want to come off with a bad first impression.

When I finally got home after a one-hour train ride, a 30-minute bus ride, and a 10-minute walk, I was pleasantly surprised to see the size of the house that I would live in for the next eight months on and off. There were four bedrooms, one for each player staying there. There was Agus Wijaya, an Indonesian; Atu Rosalina, also Indonesian, and Anastasia Russkikh, a Russian.

Staying on my own was a new experience as I hadn’t done that before. It felt nice to have my space, to be able to make my own decisions, but the novelty quickly wore off when I realized I also had to do my own laundry, cook my own food, clean my own room, etc. I had always been pampered at home by my mom, I’d never done my laundry, let alone cook my own food or clean my room. I quickly learned to cook a little bit of barely edible food which still took me a lot of time to prepare until I bought a microwave and discovered the wonders of re-heated food.

Another thing I was going to have to get used to was the commute to IBA (International Badminton Academy). I had to take a bus, train and then another bus to get to the academy. It took me about two-and-a-half hours approximately, so if I was training from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. I had to get up very early. Later on, the manager of SBK (Skaelskor Badminton Club) allowed me to use his second car to drive myself to the academy. This was great as it saved me something like three hours a day.

Living in Skaelskor
Living in Skaelskor was unlike anything I had experienced before. Skaelskor is a small town near the sea with a population of only about 5000. Coming from Bangalore where the population is something like 6.5 million it was quite strange to see empty roads, supermarkets which aren’t crowded all the time and open spaces in general.

I learnt quickly that prices in supermarkets are very different and there are some shops to avoid as the same food you can buy elsewhere is much more expensive there. The house we (four players) were staying in was owned by the manager of SBK who lived in another house that he owned. We were each given a cycle to get around in Skaelskor. The badminton hall was about 10 minutes away by cycle and the supermarkets, salons, restaurants and bakery were about the same distance.

Training in Denmark
I was going to IBA three days a week i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and had club sessions two days a week: Tuesday and Thursday. Any physical training that I wanted to do was up to me. There was a gym which wasn’t very fancy but had all the necessary equipment and there were woods where I could do any running that I wanted to.

The training in IBA was very different from back home in Bangalore. In Bangalore, the training sessions would last approximately 3 ½ hours and I would be on court for about three hours, either playing or helping someone. In IBA, the sessions were two hours only, including warm up and cooling down after training. It was more intense of course, but I always felt the sessions could’ve been longer.

Michael Kjeldsen , head coach at IBA, would have me figure out for myself what I needed to work on, and how I thought whatever problem I had could be solved. This was again different from Bangalore and it made me start thinking more about the game, always a good thing. Another difference from the training back home was the fact that in Denmark, I would play a lot more games during the training. In Bangalore, I would play games twice a week at the most but here I would play games about four-five times a week! This meant that I was competing a lot more, and against players who didn’t give a damn whether you were the Indian national champion or not. It helped, but again, I’m not too sure that its something I want to continue always, because there has to be a lot of drills in the training to improve any stroke I feel needs improving.

Like I said earlier, any physical training that I wanted to do was up to me. I had a schedule made for me by Kasper for running and there were mostly interval runs in it as Kasper explained to me that that was what the Danes believed was the best kind of training for badminton. I would do most of my weight training with a junior player from the club, Rasmus Hansen, who was eager to learn what kind of weight training I was doing in Bangalore. It always helped to have somebody to train with as it just felt less boring.

Tournaments around Europe
I had a schedule of tournaments to play during my stint in Denmark which included two Grand Prix events and about four A grade events. I won my first International title when I won the men’s singles at the Hungarian International in October. I didn’t really play so well after that for a few events as I was getting tired of being in Europe. The cold weather, gloomy skies and the change in food wasn’t easy to get adjusted to. I found myself entering in tournaments and on arriving at the venue, would wonder when I could get back. This, of course, isn’t what you want to be thinking about when you arrive for a tournament. Ideally, you want to be looking forward to the competition, feeling fit and strong and generally feeling pumped up. In hindsight, I guess I could’ve planned my schedule a little better, playing fewer events and training more.

Apart from the Hungarian International, I reached the semifinal of the Scottish International in November which I felt was an okay result and I had a couple of good wins before losing to Wacha of Poland in the semis. I cramped very badly in that match, or I would’ve had a chance in the third game.

I also played the Danish Open which was a five or six-star event, one of the biggest tournaments in the IBF calendar, where I lost to Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark in the second round. The score was only 15-2, 15-6 but I felt that I played okay, and I feel if I get another shot at him I can do much better. I was also in the quarterfinal of the Iceland International in November. All in all, I could tell that though there wasn’t any big difference in my technique or fitness for that matter, the difference in me since coming to Denmark was that I was more open to accepting drift in the badminton hall, bad hotels, bad food and different conditions in general. That doesn’t mean I was not affected by drift in the hall, but I was not bothered by it as much as I used to be.

Team Matches
Denmark has probably the best league in the world. All the Danes play in it, as do most of Europe’s top players. This is a big part of the reason that Denmark seems to be able to produce so many players of good quality. The juniors in Denmark are exposed to world class badminton from a very young age. The highest division is the elite division and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions follow. There are eight teams in the elite division and every year the bottom ranked team gets relegated to the 1st division and the top ranked team from the 1st division moves up to the elite division.

Skaelskor had just moved to elite in 2005 and that’s the reason I was invited to play for the club, as they needed more players to stay in the elite. At the start of the season, I was to play second singles as I was lower ranked than Kasper Fangel (who played first singles) in the Danish rankings. I moved up to first singles I the second half of the season though. I played 10 team matches in all of which I won four and lost six. I had to play a couple of matches the day after I landed in Denmark and I had a tough time being ready for those matches. But to be honest, I didn’t perform as well as I know I can. I guess I had a hard time playing the matches, there’s a lot more pressure in these kind of matches because you’re playing for more than just yourself. Again, I guess the experience of playing these kind of matches has helped me.

Downside of being in Denmark
Not everything about my trip to Denmark was positive. For example, I missed the Asian Badminton Championships which was held in India (Hyderabad). This was a four-star event and I could’ve earned a lot of ranking points playing this tournament. I also missed the India Satellite which was held in Delhi. Playing an international event in your country helps in the sense that you know what conditions to expect and are probably used to it. I also ended up missing a lot of Indian ranking tournaments and as a result went down to No.4 from No.1 in the ranking list.

Another area where I felt I would’ve improved if I hadn’t gone to Denmark is physical fitness. In the first 3 ½ months that I spent in Denmark I played seven team matches, six International tournaments and one domestic tournament. This left very little time for training and I guess my fitness did suffer a bit.

Before I left for Denmark, Prakash Sir had told me exactly what I would face and as it turned out he was absolutely right. He told me that I would find it hard in the first couple of months, but would then get used to it and start to enjoy it. He said that I would come back not sure of whether or not it had helped but would realize on being back a few months that it did in fact help. I guess the only thing he said would happen which didn’t was me eventually liking the chores around the house like cooking and laundry.

Party at the Big Mac