Below is a short account of my first Copenhagen Masters. I spent Christmas with relatives in Lund in southern Sweden, and on the 29th (the day of the finals) I crossed the bridge to Denmark by train. The journey to Copenhagen central station only takes about an hour. I found that the venue, Cirkusbygningen, was only about 500 meters from the station, so I had time to grab something to eat before the event. Just opposite the arena was a McD****d's and being too short of both time and inspiration to find something better I went in. In the queue next to mine was Danish doubles player Michael Lamp... I must admit I was a bit surprised to find an elite athlete waiting for a cheeseburger, but I guess he's not more than human. Anyway, he was there as a spectator this time. The Cirkusbygningen is an unusual but excellent venue for a badminton tournament. It's an old theatre, and I guess it could be called Copenhagen's Royal Albert Hall, albeit much smaller. When I got into the lobby the first person I saw was Poul-Erik Hoyer, Olympic gold medalist in Men's Singles1996, chatting to a group of people. He is now employed as expert commentator for Danish TV2, which was broadcasting the event. Another familiar face was a guy from a badminton club in Stockholm that I played against in a tournament last year. He told me that three years ago, he had travelled down with some friends from Stockholm to watch the Masters, and it had been such a great experience that they kept coming back. Having just experienced my first Masters myself, I now understand what he meant: the audience is very close to the action, few places are reserved for VIP's and press, and best of all -- there's only one court for the action. It's really easy to concentrate on one court. My seat was in the second row just by one corner of the court. I was so close to a line judge that I actually had to duck when he called "OUT" and extended his arms... Before the Men's Singles final match there was a competition and an award ceremony. The competition was a serving contest where two from the audience competed for tickets to the All England. They got three tries each to serve a long serve into an RSL box (RSL was everywhere, being one of the main sponsors), but both failed... This was followed by an award ceremony for Jonas Rasmussen and Lars Paaske who had been voted as Best Danish Badminton player(s) of the Year. They received a check of 10,000 DKK. At last it was time for the action to start. Music came on, and Wong Choong Hann appeared from a cloud of smoke, and he smiled and waved as the audience was clapping and shouting wildly. Then appeared Kenneth Jonassen from another cloud of smoke, and everybody clapped and shouted even wilder. After a brief warm-up the match begun. Initially, it appeared that Jonassen was controlling the show, but little by little Wong took over. It was clear that Kenneth's initial tactic was to counter-strike at Wong's sharp attacks. Jonassen is exceptional in the defense, but today he clearly wasn't in top form, and Wong managed to pin the shuttle to the floor effectively. Kenneth has very sharp backhand smashes and diagonal backhand drops, but they just didn't work today (I could really tell as I sat no more than 2 meters from his rear backhand corner)... Jonassen started attacking more, and that paid off, but it was too late. The first game went to Wong at 15-7, but it was more even than the score might suggest. In the second game Jonassen looked tense and stressed, producing a lot of unforced errors, while Wong just played better and better. Jonassen's frustration was evident. He also got really irritated with an Asian supporter who found it nice to laugh out loud in a very exaggerated fashion whenever Kenneth hit a shuttle out or into the net. Quite justly, and a bit disappointing for the audience, Wong won the second game and thus the match by 15-10 (which actually was less even than the score might suggest). The Ladie's Singles final featured Camilla Martin against Xie Xin Fang. I've never seen Xie play before, and when she came on court I just couldn't believe how she would be able to shake Camilla. Xie is tall, a fair bit taller than Camilla, but she is extremely thin -- my first thought was that she looked really unhealthy, bordering on the anorectic side. Xie scored the first point, but then Camilla caught the lead rather quickly to 3-1, and it looked like she was in total control. Then something happened with Xie -- she seemed to loosen up, and she started reading Camilla's shots completely, and took over the match. Her movement around court was just incredibly smooth and fast. She reminded me of Dai Yun, only a lot taller and more dexterious and ballet-like. Camilla got more and more frustrated and, in usual fashion, started cursing out loud between rallies... Xie looked as calm as ever and just kept attacking. The rather one-sided match was over in two short games, 11-3, 11-3 in favour of the 22-year old Chinese. After the prize ceremony, Camilla held a rather touching goodbye speech. This was her last and 11th Copenhagen Masters, and she thanked the audience for all the support during the years, and she said that she looked forward on being in the audience next year. Then it was time for the main event from my point of view: the Mens Doubles Final between Jonas Rasmussen/Lars Paaske and Candra Wijaya/Halim Haryanto. This was just the final I was hoping for on beforehand. Initially the match was extremely close, with a lot of good rallies and spectacular shots. The Indonesian pair was constantly on the attack as usual, but this was well countered by the superb Danish defense. Especially Lars' short diagonal smash returns are just out of this world, and the Danes actually seemed to consciously give away the attack by serving high and lifting a lot. It worked OK until 8-8 in the first game, when suddenly the Danes started hitting into net, lifting out, and making a lot of errors, thus giving the game away to the Indonesian pair far too easily. Jonas looked really frustrated at the change of ends before the second set. Unfortunately for the Danes, things only got worse. They lost focus completely, while Candra/Halim just kept on attacking. At 4-3, Candra was about to serve to Jonas, and he very quickly produced a high serve which completely took Jonas by surprise. Jonas claimed he wasn't ready and asked for a let, but the umpire thought otherwise and gave the point to the Indonesians. I would say the umpire was right; Jonas didn't actually try to return the serve, but he did move his left foot as if he was about to go for it. When Candra got ready to serve his next serve, to Lars, Jonas started creating all kinds of distractions -- getting into a ready stance behind Lars, then just as Candra was about to deliver the serve, Jonas started waving his hand signalling that he was not ready. This was repeated twice until the umpire reprimanded Jonas. I'd say that a yellow card should have been awarded. Typical Jens Erikssen bad boy behaviour, I'd say, and this is actually the first time I've seen Jonas lose his temper, and I realised that if he let something that trivial get to him, they would never win the match. (Jonas, maybe you'd like to comment on how you saw it?) For the rest of the match, the Danes never really regained focus, and Candra/Halim won the match 15-10, 15-4. It must be said in Jonas' favour, however, that he was very sportsmanlike after the match point, congratulated the Indonesians several times and pointed to Candra and applaued, an applause which the audience also took up. As a whole, the match, like the others this evening, was something of a disappointment. However, the Indonesians were playing really good. Candra was the playmaker, he was really a devil at the net while Halim did most of the dirty work at the back. But it was also interesting to see during the first set that on a good day, the Danes can be every bit as fast. Unfortunately I never got to meet up with Jonas in person. He was lurking about backstage somewhere before the event, and afterwards, well, as they lost the final I guessed that he really wouldn't feel in a chatty mood, so I decided to head back to the train station. Outside, I bumped into Raphael Sachetat and I went up to him and introduced myself. He seems like a nice and open guy, and he also took the opportunity to praise BadmintonForum! This was definitely not my last Masters, and next year I think I will go and see all days of the tournament. Great atmosphere, great venue, great tournament!