It was an amazing experience to be a part of the world’s best once again, as the last Super Series I played was 3 years ago at the 2012 All England Open. This time it was different because we qualified under different conditions, including playing a minimal number of tournaments mainly due to a lack of resources. However, it was an accomplishment nonetheless. It would be tough pretty much anywhere in the draw, and we happened to play Denmark. As the tournament approached, we learned that they had won the German Open, held the week before the All Englands. We were definitely in for a tough match.
(In between the Bullring Mall at the end of Birmingham New Street.)
Overall, the match went as expected. However, it was still an opportunity to test our abilities and to see which techniques and strategies were effective, and also those that were not so effective. Despite having to play such a good team, we weren’t too nervous because we knew we had to play Indonesia the week after in Switzerland, so no matter how bad things seemed in our match at the All Englands, it really could have been worse. In these situations, all you can do is to try your best and to take as many lessons home to work on as possible. After our brief match against Denmark, we were able to review the tournament footage (with a very special thanks to Misha Zilberman of Israel for helping us set up my camera to film the match). We found a few glaring holes in our game and we spent the rest of the week doing our best to work on the weakness.
(The picture above is the warm up court before going on to play matches in the main area. One court for many, many players apparently.)
(We had pub food many times over the week, as it was one of the more affordable places to eat. The following meal was about 11.45 GPB, which is about $23 CAD. Not bad for a 10 ounce steak, chicken breast, and my favourite pub drink: Strongbow!)
(Big thanks to Yonex for giving each player a player kit, which included 4 new shirts (2 of each) with names printed on the back, 2 pairs of shorts/skirts, and a new track suit!)
(I bumped into my former coach, Kim Dong Moon, a total of 3 times randomly in Birmingham. If you think about it, that's a pretty crazy coincidence because he was only there for 'vacation' and was not working with the Korean National Team. I credit him a lot because the vast majority of my playing style is based on his methods and experience. I am incredibly fortunate to get the rare opportunity to learn from him.)
(I am actually standing in front of a sign that says, "Closed". Special thanks to TagDawgs for the awesome jacket, perfect for UK weather!)
Before we knew it, the week was over and we were on our way to Basel, Switzerland for the 2015 Swiss Open. Alex and I were joined by our respective doubles partners, and I had to play qualifications on Tuesday with Philippe Charron. We spent the first few days training and chatting about different things, and as both of us read a fair amount of non-fiction, we had colourful discussions about many different things including badminton, motor control, motor learning, leadership, and everything else in between. I am currently working on 3 books at the moment, so there were definitely a lot of opportunities to try to apply what I have read. The qualifying matches on Tuesday went fairly well, especially with a 20-17 comeback to take the match in our 2nd qualifying match against an Indonesian team. We would then qualify to make the main draw and face another Indonesian team.
Wednesday morning, Alex and I were one of the first matches
on at 9:00am against the top Indonesian mixed doubles team. They also happened
to play in the All England final the week before, so we knew we would have a
pretty tough time… and that we did, as the first game flew by 21-6. In my
opinion, there are certain times where physical abilities become rather useless
if you can’t get into a rally. So, even if I had the hardest smash in the
world, I wouldn’t be able to use it if I couldn’t hit an effective serve return
to start the rally. For those of you who read my blog and compete yourselves,
how well is your serve return? Fortunately, I think they let up a bit, after
winning 21-6, which gave us a chance to do a bit better in the 2nd
game. We even made it to the interval first, but the second they turned things
up again, we were in a pretty rough place. We did better in the 2nd
set, but nowhere in the match did I feel in control of the game. It was a great
experience playing #4 in the world, and I now have a better idea of what
standard I need to play at, including the quality of my shots and overall
tactical sense. Looking forward to next time!
(Fancy anime Yonex advertisements in the concourse at the Yonex store!)
Later in the evening, we had our doubles match against an upcoming Indonesia team. I didn’t really think we had much of a chance, but I just went with it and tried my best to work with my partner. My doubles is quite rusty, but fortunately my serves were okay for the majority of the match. We started off a bit slow, but we kept grinding it out. With the scores getting closer and closer, we resorted to making plans before each rally and making minor adjustments as we went along. We played some different tactics, and before we knew it, we actually won the first game. The 2nd set started off with Indonesia coming out hard and taking and early lead, but we kept things fairly close until they pulled away at the end to take the 2nd set. The 3rd set was rather difficult again, but we did a slow comeback near the end, but it was just too late and we ended up losing 21-17 in the 3rd. It was a great match and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I took some valuable lessons home as well.
(Arc Saber 10 winning not one, but TWO racquet clashes (vs. Arc Saber 11) against a smash down the middle. My Men's Doubles is definitely rusty! Maybe it's time to upgrade to the new Yonex Voltric 80 E-Tune!)
On paper, the results may not look very good, and even the
matches may not look the greatest on camera either. However, I felt I made
reasonable progress and I think I have a lot of new things to work on and look
forward to improving when I get back. I came across a quote which would sum up
my experience quite well: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you
can.” - Arthur Ashe (former tennis champion). It’s easy to figure out solutions
to problems in hindsight, but worrying about them in a match is never really a
good idea. I’m quite guilty of having the mindset of trying to do too much during
a match, but I hope to make adjustments as things come along in the future.
(View from the players seating area at the 2015 Swiss Open. They were MUCH more generous than the All Englands.)
(Had to try this Fanta flavour (Shokata). I'm still not sure what it is, but I think it's actually white, with a blue bottle, not blue.)
(USANA's Nutrimeal (French Vanilla) with added Fibergy really helped with breakfast in Switzerland, as our B&B charged 15 CHF (~$20 CAD) for a breakfast buffet. I simply took a meal replacement shake (with my USANA supplements), and sometimes an extra Fudge Delite bar for extra protein as needed.)
Overall, it was a great learning experience these last 2 weeks and I hope to keep growing as a player, and also as a person (according to John C. Maxwell, author of many great books on leadership). My next scheduled international tournament will be Peru International in April, so I will definitely make some adjustments to prepare for that. Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog and I always appreciate your support! Matches can be found on my YouTube Channel!
(I got upgraded at the last minute to Business Class from Frankfurt to Seattle. I am one lucky *insert curse word here*. Regardless, here's a toast to good fortune to everyone. Cheers!! Thanks for following!!)