Korea Open: A fascinating women’s doubles encounter
January 14, 2013
Dev S Sukumar is the recipient of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Media Award, 2011.Excerpts:
What stands out about Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli is their physical stature. They are broad-shouldered and powerful – their smashes almost carrying the sting of the men. Perhaps the only ones who can match them physically are their teammates Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, the Olympic champions. Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua are accomplished doubles players, but they were outmatched physically.
It was fascinating to see how they tried to counter the disadvantage. Yu Yang is an imposing presence at the net, while Wang Xiaoli not only hits viciously from the back, she has some deceptive strokes that can catch her opponents out of place. Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua tried to upset the combination – instead of allowing Yu Yang to control the net, they pushed her to the back and started feeding her with the high tosses, taking Wang Xiaoli out of the equation. Yu Yang’s frustration began to mount, and she started making uncharacteristic errors. Both Ma and Tang were superb in defence as they stonewalled the thunderbolts coming from the other side of the court.
The beginning of the match itself was stunning. At 3-1 to Ma/Tang a long rally ensued, and after about a minute I realised something special was on. The rally was going on interminably, and I started to count the strokes – I counted an amazing 115 strokes, despite starting a minute late. The total count would have been 150 or even 180. It is this ability to play any kind of game – full-out defence or attack or flat exchanges – that the Chinese excel at. The match offered a window into the range and craft of doubles – players moving their opponents with delicate and precise strokes; exploring the possibilities of netplay; smashing to different areas. Every top player has ability, but the Chinese perform at an intensity greater than anybody else.