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.