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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Watching and learning

Lately I’ve been watching badminton tournaments on late-night TV. The Yonex All-England Cup 2006 and the Denmark Masters 2005 are the sort of events where we can see greats work their magic with the racket and shuttlecock, like Peter Gade, Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark; Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms of England; Pi Hongyan of France; and Gao Ling, Zhang Jun, Lin Dan, Zhang Ning and Xie Xingfang of China.

Watching these people play, I can see how I trail them in terms of technique. The professionals always mix up straight and cross-court (i.e. diagonal) shots and play the deception factor regularly. This forces their opponents to be on their toes all the time, as it takes a lot more effort and space to chase a cross-court smash to the back court.

I decided to go to Whackers World (my alternate badminton venue) without a feverish Aileen last Sunday. That was where I tried out these cross-court smashes and net shots, and it was interesting how they’re supposed to be done—in some cases, with as little wrist power as possible. This is a whole new side of racket control I never bothered with before. With my playing thus far, I’ve used mostly straight shots, kills and smashes, with power from my arm and wrist, never really giving thought to how the ball should fly other than “immediately downwards” as in a well-placed smash.

While at Villamor this afternoon I tried to use this newfound knowledge of cross-court shooting. It’s quite hard at first. I can’t do the near-horizontal underhand cross-court net shots that are the hallmark of better players. At least I’m trying the whole philosophy out and I wholly see the point of doing so. I just think I’ll need more time and practice.

Now I found another weakness of mine: I need to develop my stamina. At Whackers I was exhausted at my third game, my leaden legs and burning feet preventing me from moving quickly. At least I’m not alone; I can take solace in the fact that Nathan Robertson lost the 2006 All-England Open mixed doubles final because of lack of stamina. Then again, maybe it’s all down to playing style: Jump smashes look good but are usually unnecessarily tiring.

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