OLYMPICS Day 4 – Last Tango in Rio

Most of the singles favourites cruised to the end of the preliminary round robin but wins by Lin Dan, Akane Yamaguchi, and P. V. Sindhu were not without incident, all […]

Most of the singles favourites cruised to the end of the preliminary round robin but wins by Lin Dan, Akane Yamaguchi, and P. V. Sindhu were not without incident, all in different ways.

By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Almost all the singles players came out to dance their last tango, sharing their passion for badminton, before invitations to the main draw are sorted out. It would be the result of the matches today that would determine who got the exclusive invite to the main draw.

Never Give Up

Tee Jing Yi (pictured) started off on the strong foot, steadily racking up a 6-point lead over Akane Yamaguchi. Tragedy struck however, at her 17 point mark, she was left clutching her left calf in pain. A call to the tournament doctor saw ice spray applied to the cramp and the calf was stretched before play resumed. Even when Akane came back to a game lead, and having yet another doctor call in the match interval, Tee opted to continue the match, choosing to finish the match rather than retire.

How to change a racquet 101 – singles edition

If anyone was worried about Nguyen Tien Minh troubling the great Lin Dan (pictured), that was put to rest with Lin moving out to a one-game lead in less than 20 minutes. The great man never ceased his magic, as he pulled off one of the most unthinkable stunts in history – successfully changing his racquet during a singles rally, and making it back on court to hit the shuttle.

Should a string break during the rally, the average player will often wait until the rally is over to change the racquet. However, when a match is of international caliber, and in this case, on the Olympic stage, the player would be hard pressed to continue a disadvantageous rally with a broken string and opt to change the racquet mid-rally in order to remove the disadvantage.

Changing a racquet in doubles is relatively easy, as long as one has good communication with one’s partner, who can sometimes cover the court during the change of racquets. It also helps if said partner is able to play a singles game against a doubles pair while waiting for the partner to come back with the racquet.

Doing the same in singles would leave the court empty and essentially undefended. Exceptional speed is required in order to rush to the bag, get new racquet and rush back to court. The shuttle itself also will have to be hit to a spot to maximize the delay before the shuttle comes back. The back court is an obvious option as the shuttle spends more time in the opponent’s side as compared to the front area. Of the 2 back corners, the shuttle must be hit towards the corner that is closest to the racquet bag side. This ensures that if the opponent hits the shuttle along the fastest path – a straight line, the distance required to get back to the shuttle is minimized. Should the opponent hit a cross shot, the shuttle has a longer flight path due to trigonometry, and therefore is in the air longer, giving the player more time to get towards the shuttle.

Dancing to a different tune

Once a doubles player in the knockout round of the previous , Michelle Li stood on the stage as a singles player facing P. V. Sindhu (pictured top). Despite this being the last match of the morning session, the audience refused to leave their seats in eager anticipation of the match to follow.

Michelle Li (pictured) never failed to disappoint, forcing Sindhu to the sides. Nevertheless, Sindhu kept on her aggressive game play, though Michelle surged on ahead to a 1 game lead. Despite her stellar run, her defensive stamina could not match up to Sindhu’s never-ending barrage

With the final game holding the fate of the match, Sindhu redoubled her attacks while Michelle attempted to cut down Sindhu’s attack opportunities. Occasionally, Michelle would manage to set up short lifts that converted into rally ending smashes. It wasn’t enough to faze Sindhu, whose stamina proved to be the key to sealing the match with powerful offense.

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