Win or lose, doubles players insist it’s all about communication as they got through Day 2 of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Dubai Para Badminton International Dubai 2021.
India’s Prem Kumar Ale and Russia’s Tatiana Gureeva have only played together twice before but their video calls over the last year seem to have helped them win their Wheelchair (WH1-WH2) mixed doubles against Marc Elmer/Cynthia Mathez (Switzerland) 21-10 21-12.
“Coordinating on court is not a problem. I just know what feels right and what I need to do. It’s just experience. In mixed doubles usually the woman player takes a lot of shuttles so I need to be careful and avoid mistakes. He needs to attack and take more risky shots,” said Gureeva.
Ale added: “We made match plans on video calls but there’s nothing like actually being on court together. This is our third time playing after Peru and Brazil so we’re doing OK.”
Attracting attention in their bright pink kit, Gureeva said: “It was his choice but maybe it’s lucky.”
Having had a day to assess their competition, she added: “The Chinese are difficult to beat but they are not here. Maybe the Swiss Luca and Karin (No.1 seeds) but otherwise it’s an even playing field and we’re sure we can make the finals.”
Gureeva later won her WH2 women’s singles against Emine Seckin (Turkey) 21-17 21-18 but lost to Seckin and To Man Kei (Belgium) 21-13 21-11 with partner Saimaa Samy Ab D Ellatif (Egypt) in the WH1-WH2 women’s doubles.
Earlier in the day, To’s first-time partnership with Italy’s Yuri Ferrigno paid off when they defeated Abu Hubaida (India) and Henriette Koosz (Austria) 21-16 18-21 21-15 in the WH1-WH2 mixed doubles.
“I took time to get used to the court and my partner but we won because eventually we communicated well with each other. As the only Belgian wheelchair player, I don’t have the opportunity to practice doubles, especially the diagonal serve. It’s also a tough draw here with three strong pairs,” said To.
“I’ve played singles and doubles wheelchair tennis so I remember the moves and bring that experience into badminton. I made some mistakes early in the match because it wasn’t easy to control the shuttle. We lacked confidence at the start but we’re OK now,” said Ferrigno.
In another first-time pairing, the men’s doubles Standing (SL3-SL4), Prakash Adhikari (Nepal) and Dillaswar Rao Gadel (India) spilled blood but failed to overcome India’s Mohammad Arwaz Ansari/Deep Ranjan Bisoyee, losing 12-21 21-19 15-21.
Playing in his first international competition, 18-year-old Adhikari took a few tumbles while diving for net shots and had to be treated for a bleeding knee but walked off the court with a big smile.
“I just move how I feel it’s best to hit the shot. I’ve been excited for the last one month about coming here. I’m so proud to represent Nepal and very satisfied with my performance,” said Adhikari
Being bi-lingual and having more match experience helps Gadel guide Adhikari.
“We’ve never even met and did not have any practice time but we speak English, and Prakash understands Hindi so communication on court is no problem,” said Gadel.
Top seed in the men’s singles WH2 category, Rick Cornell Hellmann (Germany) easily overcame India’s Girishkumar Jayanthilal Sharma 21-5 21-6.
Hellmann, who usually also plays doubles, will focus on singles in Dubai.
“Before deciding to come we had to consider the safety aspect. The German Badminton Federation’s one condition was we are not allowed to partner in doubles with players from other nations. Also, some German players who already have strong ranking points decided not to come,” said Hellmann.
“I want more world ranking points and test my new wheelchair. It has two back wheels to prevent falling over. My badminton used to be wilder but I’m more stable now. It’s also good to test this new concept of safety (at tournaments).”
In the men’s singles WH1 category, France’s David Toupe (No.1 seed) is looking to assess his own progress as he hasn’t had much opportunity to train with other wheelchair athletes the last few months.
“My category won’t be easy even if the big names aren’t here. There’s a new Japanese player and the usual good ones from Malaysia and India so it will be interesting, particularly in doubles,” he said.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“I just want to play badminton, then study law and find a good job in the Nepal government service.” – Adhikari
“I could have won but lost control along the way. She (Kohli) isn’t physically strong. I need more training and experience and I know I can beat her.” – Redka