My proudest Achievement

Discussion in 'General Forum' started by SnowWhite, May 13, 2022.

  1. SnowWhite

    SnowWhite Regular Member

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    This is going to be a long but worthwhile read.

    My years of playing many tournaments are over. I played the junior circuit in the Netherlands from 10 to 15 in my youth and then played 4 to 6 tournaments a year until I was around 21 when I moved to London and started having other responsibilities + tournaments aren't nearly as fun if you don't go with a group of friends.

    In my youth from age 10-15 I was the bottom of the barrel of the local talent selection. I was serious and diligent in training, but never really a contender to be moved up to stronger selections. I was the perfect sparring partner, good enough to make other players better, but never a prospect myself. Still I am very grateful for having been allowed to train with these better players and play in that environment. I would be a far worse player today if I hadn't had that opportunity.

    The youth circuit was naturally dominated by the various talent selections. So since I was on the lower end of the spectrum I got very good at losing. Sometimes I could get out of the group by beating some local club players, or one of my equally less talented teammates, but I would rarely see a semi final, let alone win anything. Doubles would fare better, because my partner and I played well together, but still I would never win anything.

    I've always been light on my feet, relatively fast, but not the fastest. I would win games by being consistent and going forever. If it goes to game 3, my winning chances improve. My shots were nothing special, I wasn't particularly powerful. This meant that I would rarely lose to worse players and rarely beat better players. In hindsight this was a bit of a curse, because while other players would have ups and downs, their ups could result in winning something, or making it to a final. I never performed below expectations, but never above it either. Better players never had anything to fear from me.

    Now, the selection taught me and refined my shots and footwork, but because technical skill is such a difference maker, especially at junior level (kids can't compensate with brute strength, because they don't have any), tactics and strategy isn't really a consideration in training. And since everyone is coached during the tournaments, players aren't really taught to think about how they play, and in many ways are dependent on the coach to make them play better. The job of the system is to create top players, so selecting and training for technical skill is the first priority. The other stuff can be taught later. Fair enough.

    The selection taught me the shots, but my father, and a coach for much of my life, taught me how to really play badminton.

    He started playing at age 20, after being a football keeper. So his legs were explosive, but his technical skill was, and has forever remained limited. His technique is reasonable, but it's not pretty or effortless as it can be for those who learn from a young age. He also never developed a true, back-to-back backhand clear. At first, he played like a barbarian [​IMG]. Fast aggressive attacking play with lots of smashes. Doesn't matter if your backhand is ugly when you're fast enough to never play a backhand. Still, someone who can keep cool, or someone experienced who knows what to do will dismantle him.

    At some point he got an injury. I don't remember what it was exactly, but it was chronic and he didn't want to stop playing. He could still play, but not as fast and ferocious as before. He is a proud person and won't accept this lower level. If he couldn't win games the old way, he would just have to find another way. This is when he really began to think about how to win. Over the course of years, he became very good at masking his backhand. If you asked his opponents after a game they would often not even recognise it as a weakness. His backhand drops were very sharp. Only if you realise that he never actually plays the clear can you take advantage and move in to take his backhand drops earlier. Even then can you rarely kill it because the quality is still high, but a quick net shot to make him run the diagonal should result in the point, be it straight away or after a few shots.

    This was all before my time as a player. I only know him as a player as someone who is middle-aged and less fit, with a rough technique, but he plays a very dominant game while expending as little energy as possible. He knows when to accelerate, when to take risk, when to slow down, what the opponents weaknesses are. He looks unimpressive from the sidelines, but when you're playing him, you wonder "where did he get all those points?"

    Since his later game was not built on fitness and technique, but on tactics, match-sense, and mental fortitude, he maintained a relatively high level of play for someone his age and with his limited technique. Now approaching 60, and many injuries later, his level has finally declined in an irreversible way, but as little as a few years ago, he still played very well.

    As I said, he has been my trainer and coach for a long time. He didn't teach me what shots to play at what moment. He didn't tell me how to play differently when he coached me in games. He would ask me during the intervals and after the game what I thought about it. He doesn't want to make me play better. He wants me to make me play better. His job as a trainer and coach is to create an independent player that isn't dependent on his coach, that can adapt to the circumstances and opponent in-game. Sure he will give actual concrete advice in matches, but always after asking what I thought.

    But the tactical and strategic awareness isn't his greatest contribution to my game. I sometimes tell other players that I am the most successful badminton player in the world. I then go on to explain that I am very good at fulfilling the purpose of badminton. Which is to enjoy it. I love this game so much. I enjoy playing it so much. This joy helps in games. I rarely get frustrated on court, or give up on the match, even when I'm not playing well, even when I'm losing to people I shouldn't be losing to, or the score seems hopeless. Because even if it's likely that I will lose in the end, I can still successfully enjoy the points that are yet to be played. And if I do that, there is nothing to regret.

    This enthusiasm I inherited from my dad. I would probably have developed it even in his absence, but the way he talks about badminton makes you want to play. Even now, we can talk about badminton for hours over the phone.

    Over the past decade(I'm 27), my game has changed. I grew up, I grew adult strength, and suddenly I was faster and more explosive, and suddenly I had a bang of a smash. My net game was always very good. Read more about what kind of player I am here:

    https://www.badmintoncentral.com/fo...ng-ms-against-md-players.180942/#post-2730916

    I should mention that due to the unsustainability of my game (especially when I'm not in top shape), I've gotten better at pacing myself, and picking my opportunities, as well as developed my deceptive ability, which gives me more options to win points, especially when I'm tired.

    That's all the background done


    Enter the tournament:

    Like I said, I don't play many tournaments anymore. I've won tournaments before, but never where I wasn't already the clear favourite to win.

    The organiser of the singles session I attend on saturday's organises 2 open tournaments a year. Last november I played the tournament. Men's singles.

    Beforehand I would not consider me a contender to win. Sure I could get to the semi's if things go well, but there are at least 2 players just clearly better than me, and then a handful of players that are either on my level, or slightly better.

    All matches are 1 game only due to time constraints and because the organiser wants to give all players enough matches, even if they don't make it out of the group. It's not fun paying for a tournament to lose one match and be knocked out.

    There are 4 groups of 5 to 6 players. Everyone in the group plays everyone else. The top 2 make it into the quarter finals.

    Against weaker players I like to blow them away out of the gate. To show them on the first point that there is no way they can beat me and to give up. I don't want to play it slow and grind out a win on superior technique and footwork. I don't want to give them hope when they are 12-15 behind and they get a cheap point to make it 13-15. I want to be 10-3 up and keep the lead until the end. Even if I slow down my game, I don't want the opponent to think they can now try and beat me.

    3 out of 4 matches go this way. The final player in my group is one of the 2 players that are simply better than me. This guy can match my speed, except he can keep it up for longer. His superior technique means he more options of shot, even when he is under pressure, which makes it harder to anticipate his shots and punish inferior shots (because I can't move too early out of fear of him surprising me with another shot). On my best day I can beat him if he's not up for it on the day. He sometimes has trouble with motivation. We go about even up to 12 points, but I can't keep up the level of play, I get tired, and I get a little impatient. He gets a little lead, and I start playing with more risk, which doesn't work out. He stays solid and wins 21-14.

    I go through to the quarters as 2nd in the group, so now I have to play the winner of another group. I should mention that person I'm playing now actually beat the 2nd player who is clearly better than me. I don't know how and I didn't see the game, but to put things in perspective: I lose to him 8 times out of 10(and only win when he's not playing well), compared to who I'm playing in the quarters who I go even against.
     
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  2. SnowWhite

    SnowWhite Regular Member

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    So the quarter final. This was my highest quality game of the tournament. I am technically superior to the opponent, but he is someone who plays to frustrate his opponent and he has a good smash. From experience, either I completely outplay him, or it's going to be a long, grinding, miserable game. I start supremely. I outpace him, my shots are high quality and consistent. My deceptions contribute to points, my smashes are close to the lines. It was a perfect game..., until I ran out of gas. I got a lead of 15-8. More then enough you would think. But we've played against each other many times previously. I know that if he gets into the game, he will always keep fighting and he can up his game at crucial moments, so I was scared to slow down. He knows that I sometimes run out of gas. Out of necessity, I start to play more conservatively, waiting for him to make mistakes or play something I can punish. And of course he suddenly starts playing perfectly, not giving me anything to work with, not making any mistakes, and giving up has not even entered his mind. He is like a bulldog; he just doesn't let go. He comes closer and closer, I get the odd point from a 100% risk shot that fell the right way, or some deception. I also start taking more risk at the net, trying to play the perfect tight netshot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the risk is worth it because each point gets me closer to 21. Eventually I get to 20-18. After a long rally, he outplays me and lines up for a net kill, but he puts it in the net and I win 21-18. We both played very good badminton. If there was a game I least deserved to win, it was this one, because he was the better player at the end. Luckily for me it was not enough.


    Now on to the semi final. Due to time constraints the quarter, the semi and the final are practically played back to back with at most 5 minutes between them. And since I was completely destroyed by the quarter final it was going to be difficult.


    I had to play a 20 year old spring chicken who had a much more comfortable quarter final. Normally I would say we are about even strength, maybe he is a bit better. This guy floats on court. All his shots and footwork look so effortless, his backhand is gorgeous. But he plays a bit passively and normally I compensate for my inferior technique and footwork with more dominant play. Except I don't have any fuel to burn, so this pretty much his game to lose. Which he did :D. If he had recognised the situation, and upped the pace, which I know he can, he would have beaten me relatively easily, since I just wouldn't have been able to keep up. But he didn't. He started out playing his normal, safe, high-quality-shot game, playing the corners and relying on his footwork. But he wasn't pushing the pace. I could play just fine at the slower pace, playing the rallies with him. He would get points from being more consistent than me. I got points from beating him at the net. We went even all the way. At 16-ish, he started to play with more urgency, playing faster and more aggressive, but by that time I had basically been resting the entire game, which meant I had a few explosive points in me. So I could keep up. He got a match point at 19-20, but I went up and over and won 22-20, the last 3 points reminiscent of the dominant aggressive game that I played at the start of the quarter.


    So now I'm in the final!!!


    There was barely any time between the semi and the final, and though I had enough in me to clinch the semi final, I am still running on empty. Fortunately, my opponent is too. I got into the final fully expecting to have the honour of losing again to the guy that beat me in the group. However, he lost. I didn't see the game because I was playing myself, but of what I'm told, the other finalist had the match of his life and won in extra points, 25-23, or something similar.


    He is still better than me, and I didn't know that I would win, but I knew that I could win. And since we were both exhausted, it muddies the waters about what is going to happen.


    We started out pretty ok, both of us playing pretty well, but by a score of around 7, there was no explosive attacking play anymore. This was far from the best mens singles game of the tournament for the both of us. We were both playing slow, trying to outmanoeuvre each other, but being unable to do so. We both didn't have the speed to get under lifts to smash them down, or to play overhead forehand shots in the backhand corner, or to get anywhere early enough to make something happen. It was now down to stamina and consistency.


    And he was winning. He's a bit younger, a bit fitter, a bit more accurate with his shots and a bit more consistent. gradually I found myself consistently 2 points behind, then 3 points behind. At a score of 12-15 in his favour, I had nothing left. I was scraping by in the rallies, felt the scoreboard pressure and he could start to play more freely due to his lead. Of course I will always try to play as well as I can, but in hindsight, I would definitely have lost that game if it wasn't for what happened next.


    He broke his string. On the score of 12-15, he broke his string on a smash that would have scored if it didn't go into the net. Would it have gone over had the string held up? I don't know. Now, he made the worst mistake that I believe lost him the tournament. He took his sweet time getting a new racket from his bag. Drank some water, towel down, everything. Yes, he was tired too, but he had the momentum, even in his tired state he was beating me. But now we both got a little rest. But this rest benefits only me, because what I can do with a little more energy is much more influential than what he can do with it. He might last a bit longer, maybe play a little faster. But I can put those scraps in the blast furnace, turn on the jets, and win 2-3 points at will. When I go 100%, I can play extremely fast, get under shuttles you wouldn't expect me to be able to, fire some very accurate smashes, and then follow up very quickly. (I am also very humble ;) ).


    We started again on 13-15. I serve short and he puts it in the net, not even close to the tape, very uncharacteristic. Remember he broke his string and is now playing with a different racket. I immediate realise that he has no feeling on his soft shots. Maybe these strings are tighter, or it's a different string. Whatever it is, he hasn't adapted to it yet. So until the end of the game, I'm aggressively playing the net, making him play those soft shots. His only alternative is to lift, and because I got to rest, I'm fast enough to move back, get under properly and continue the pressure. I got to 18-17. By this point I'm out of gas again, but when you're only 3 points away from winning a tournament, it doesn't matter if there is no energy in your muscles, you will find some in your soul. I continued to play very aggressively, and won with a score of 21-18.


    This was only an informal tournament from a casual club that happens to have a good singles session. No optimised match schedule. Only 1 game per match. Definitely not something that earns you points on some ranking.


    But it was the first and only time that I have ever won a tournament where I wasn't the clear favourite going in. In fact, if in the morning, you had asked everyone in the hall who they though would win it. I would have been surprised to hear my name.


    All the stars aligned. I dodged 2 players who could expect to beat me comfortably. One that lost in the semi final, and the other one lost to him in the quarter. I was the recipient of many opportunities that the opponents shouldn't have given me. I did all I could and played great badminton, but ultimately, it was everyone else's tournament to lose.


    I won because I recognised every opportunity and knew how to capitalise on it. I won because I better adapted my strategy to the situation, than my opponents. I won because I didn't lose focus and didn't lose my nerve. I won because while my opponents were worried about losing (except for my quarter final opponent), I was having the time of my life.


    4 or 5 players were technically superior than I. Most of the contenders were younger and fitter than I.


    I won on strategic awareness and mental fortitude. I can't believe that at 27 I can say that I won a tournament due to being more experienced :D, because I spent my teenage years embarrassingly losing to slow middle-aged guys with mediocre technique due to not knowing what I was doing :D.


    Anyway, thanks for reading, and remember: badminton is supposed to be fun.
     
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  3. BadmintonDave

    BadmintonDave Regular Member

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    Nice read. I wasn't coached as a Junior and have been trying to take the last League matches seriously this current season. You end up learning a lot "on the job" so to speak.

    Even something like changing a shuttle in a game can change the momentum.
     
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  4. SnowWhite

    SnowWhite Regular Member

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    Today I defended my title.

    I've had some trouble with my hamstring the last couple months. I feel absolutely fine, but after an hour or 90 minutes of play, it slowly feels stiffer and stiffer, and if I keep playing at some point it stabs my hamstring and I have to step off court. I'll be fine the next day. So it's difficult to determine how my hamstring is really doing, because it will feel absolutely perfect, until it doesn't.

    I've been playing sporadically, and going home as soon as it started to feel suspicious. Trying to build some strength and stability in my hamstring. but by the time of the tournament I hadn't played for three weeks due to non badminton related reasons.

    Still, it's definitely not a full recovery yet. However, the injury doesn't affect my performance at all, only my longevity. So since I was the defending champion, and there is usually plenty of rest in between games, at least at the start, I figured I'd just give it a go and see what happens. I took all the precautions, lots of stretching, good warm ups and tiger balm for good measure.

    The strength of the tournament compared to last time was interesting. Overall the level was lower, many players who played last time didn't play this time around. But the peak was much higher. 2 players I usually struggle with were injured last time. One didn't play, and the other underperformed. They were both playing today. And then another player who I was convinced would win the tournament based on my experience playing him a few times.

    I played very aggressive and with a lot of risk. I figured I have a limited amount of lunges in me and I didn't want to play long rallies, so I don't mind a few mistakes as long as I score enough points. Lots of deceptions, lots of risky smashes, lots of anticipation, for better or worse.

    The first game was a bit of a scare. Since I hadn't played my shot quality was terrible and my footwork was rusty. My opponent was clearly weaker, but good enough to give me trouble if I didn't play well, and I didn't play well. In the end I had to brute-force it with fighting badminton where despite the horrible shot quality and shoddy footwork, I just stayed in the rallies on pure physicality. Of course this is exactly the kind of badminton I'm not looking to play today. It was ugly, but I won 21-18.

    After that I found my shots in the next games. By the time I had to play the main rival in the group, I had no trouble.

    To the quarter. My opponent put up good scores against the other players in his group and even edged out the player I beat in the quarter last november. So definitely a strong player. I won 21-8. I guess it's down to playing styles, but more on that later.

    Semi final was up against someone I have never lost to. He tends to play nervous and inconsistent. His victory in the quarter was an upset. Today however, he played to his potential. Not many mistakes. I was down at 9-11, but ended up winning in the end 21-16. Not much to say. He played well, and made me work for it, but in the end I was just better.

    To the final. the player I thought would win the whole thing is indeed in the final. I have only ever played him twice, and both times he rolled me while not breaking a sweat.

    This time it's best of 3 rather than a single game. I've been playing aggressive attacking badminton, keeping the rallies short and scoring points. And I continue to do so. Except, this time, my smashes are not only returned, but returned with interest. He plays aggressive drives and lifts off my smashes, which is insane(ly impressive). He keeps the game away from the net, so I can't score any points there (though he could probably beat me there too). And to top it off, any lower quality shots are harshly punished.

    So I find myself in a game where I can't find ways to pose any threat to him. And I have to play perfect the entire rally or I lose the point immediately. Whatever I do, he is not only solid, but he can outgun me in the attack as well. 5-21, 9-21. I could have maybe gotten a better score if I decided to play slower and play the rallies, but I knew that I would never win the entire match that way and it might aggravate my injury as well.

    Ultimately, the road to the final was a breeze compared to last time, but the eventual winner was such an impossible obstacle for me. I had a lucky draw as well. The guy who won the bronze play off did far better against the winner than I did and would have probably beaten me in the semi had I played him.

    Here is where the story gets funny.

    Winner: Tom
    Guy I played in the quarter: ****
    Guy I played in the quarter last november: Harry

    Me vs Tom 5-21, 9-21
    Me vs **** 21-8
    **** vs Harry 21-14
    Harry vs Tom 21-20 (no setting)
    Me vs Harry (last november) 21-18

    HOW!?

    At first glance it looks absurd that Harry lost to **** quite tamely when I beat **** so easily, because I never have easy games against Harry. But then Harry turns around and beats Tom. What!?

    It must be down to play styles. Tom just completely counters my attack, and that's all I brought to the table today. Harry is a fighter, a very physical player who never gives up on the rally. His source of points doesn't have to be attacking play(though it can be), he can also try to outrun and outlast his opponents. Tom will have to find ways to score points, whereas in our game he only needed to defend my attack and the points will come more easily, so against Harry he got frustrated and started making mistakes. **** beat Harry, because **** can play some nice attacking badminton, he has some tricks up his sleeve, and has the stamina and consistency to play good rallies. I rolled him because all of that doesn't matter if he can't withstand my fast attacking play.

    Obviously I used fake names.

    Edit: I did not anticipate the second name being censored. Obviously I didn't intend anything vulgar. Most will know what it should say and I'm too lazy to change it. Apologies.
     
    #4 SnowWhite, Jul 10, 2022
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2022

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