It was a good day for top seeds in the men’s and women’s standing categories on Day 3 of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Al Rashid Maktoum Dubai Para Badminton International 2021.
In men’s singles Standing Lower (SL3), Pramod Bhagat (India) defeated Abdul Latheef Mohamed 21-10 21-9 (Maldives) to top Group A, while teammates Manoj Sarkar, Nitesh Kumar and Umesh Vikram Kumar all topped their respective groups.
“Call it confidence or overconfidence but no one (challenges me) for now. If I have to name a strong opponent then Dan Bethell (England), but he hasn’t come. Maybe we’ll meet in Spain,” said world champion and No.1 Bhagat.
He reveals his secret to success: “If you are tense, you can’t play 100%, and for every match I play 200%. I’ve trained myself to stop thinking about my opponents before a match. If I think of their ability, I give them the power over me so I just tell myself I’m the best.”
Another men’s singles player that has had the upper hand since 2019 is Lucas Mazur in the SL4 category. In Dubai however, Mazur is beginning to feel strongly challenged although he won his group match against Marcel Adam (Germany) 21-12 21-17.
“I’m not happy with the numbers. I made a lot of mistakes because Marcel pressured me,” said Mazur.
For Mazur, Dubai and the next few tournaments will allow him to assess his progress under new coach Bertrand Louvet.
“I’ll take this feedback, and change accordingly to prepare for the Paralympics, which will be the final test on whether I made the right decision to change coaches last year.
“Every athlete has had this last year to work harder and improve their skills so I can feel the level of badminton is higher now. We might see a few surprise winners here,” he added.
Sweden’s Rikard Nilsson (No.4 seed) also sees the SL4 category as a more even playing field compared to a year ago.
“My category is big and at this time we’re all quite evenly matched but I’ve had a lot of practice even during self-isolation at home. Although in the first match yesterday I was a bit rusty, I’m in good shape,” said Nilsson.
Nilsson made easy work of Ahmad Fayaz (Maldives) 21-8 21-2 to top Group D.
The men’s singles Standing Upper (SU5) category also features a highly-accomplished group of the top four world ranked players with world No.1 Dheva Anrimusthi leading the pack, followed by Cheah Liek Hou (Malaysia), Suryo Nugroho (Indonesia) and Bartlomiej Mroz (Poland).
Stepping It Up
A raised level of play was also evident among the women competitors although Megan Hollander (Netherlands) barely broke a sweat in her singles SU5 match against Kenya’s Neema Stency, winning 21-8 21-8.
“Things are in my favour here so I can start easy to get used to this comeback, and build my way to Spain then Tokyo,” said Hollander.
SL4 women’s singles world No.3 Helle Sofie Sagoey (Norway) had a tougher time against France’s Faustine Noel, before winning 21-14 19-21 21-16.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“It’s great being here but it would be good to have a warm-up court because it’s important for players.” – Mazur
“The year flew by because I’ve been so busy. I bought a house and moved in with my boyfriend, I got a job caring for people with mental disability and I’m back in university.” – Hollander