Badminton: Tight schedule bad for shuttlers

China's Lin Dan believes the form of top-ranked shuttlers may suffer from the demands placed upon them by BWF rules stipulating a minimum 12 competitions a year. He crashed out in this week's Malaysia Masters first round.
China's Lin Dan believes the form of top-ranked shuttlers may suffer from the demands placed upon them by BWF rules stipulating a minimum 12 competitions a year. He crashed out in this week's Malaysia Masters first round.PHOTO: REUTERS

Lin says stars will cherry-pick events, while Axelsen prefers fewer but high-quality ones

KUALA LUMPUR • World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei and China's Lin Dan have expressed concerns about a new badminton tournament structure requiring players to compete in more events.

The complaints emerged at the Malaysia Masters, which has been upgraded this year by governing body Badminton World Federation (BWF) as it looks to raise the sport's profile and ramp up revenues.

The new tour series, featuring six levels and higher prize money, kicks off this year and runs until 2021. At least US$1 million (S$1.32 million) is up for grabs in each of its top four events.

But regulations also require shuttlers to compete in more events - the top 15 singles players and top 10 doubles pairings must take part in 12 a year, an additional two from the previous competition schedule.

The Malaysia Masters, a Super 500 tournament which has seen its prize money almost treble to US$350,000, attracted many more big names to Kuala Lumpur than it had in the past as players seek to fulfil the requirements. But some complained competing in so many events this year would be a burden.

A string of top players including world No. 2 Lee, reigning Olympic champion Chen Long, 29, and two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin crashed out on the opening day on Wednesday.

Lee said he was prepared to pay a penalty to skip an event if he felt he needed to.

NOT EXACTLY A SPRING CHICKEN

If I have to pay a fine for skipping an event, I will. I'm not 25 any more, I'm 36 this year.

LEE CHONG WEI, reigning All-England champion, is willing to pay the price for preserving his energy.

"If I have to pay a fine for skipping an event, I will. I'm not 25 any more, I'm 36 this year," the second seed said after losing to Japan's Kenta Nishimoto 19-21, 21-18, 21-19.

"I don't think BWF will review the format, because if they wanted to, they would have done it."

Denmark's Axelsen, who beat South Korea's Lee Hyun Il 18-21, 21-14, 21-5 in the opening round, was also critical.

PICKING BATTLES

The top players will focus on the big tournaments. If we have to play in so many tournaments, we won't play our best.

LIN DAN, China's two-time Olympic champion, on shuttlers utilising the finite resources at their disposal.

"We (would) rather have high quality than too many tournaments where the best players can't perform because we don't have time to train," said the 24-year-old.

Five-time world champion Lin, who was beaten by Indonesia's Ihsan Maulana Mustofa 21-16, 18-21, 21-17, warned organisers that the stars will aim to peak at the World Championships, the Thomas Cup, the Asian Games and the All-England Championships.

"The top players will focus on the big tournaments," said the 34-year-old. "If we have to play in so many tournaments, we won't play our best."

Under BWF's new event structure, it is compulsory for the top 15 singles players to compete in three second-tier events (Super 1000), five third-tier events (Super 750), and four fourth-tier events (Super 500). Super 300 events make up the fifth tier.

The most prestigious competition in the 37-tournament, five-tier world tour is the World Tour Finals .

The BWF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Malaysia Masters runs until Sunday. Like this week's event, the July 17-22 Singapore Open is a Super 500 tournament.

The US$355,000 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium comes after the July 3-8 Indonesia Open, a Super 1000 tournament with US$1.25 million in prize money, and the Super 500 Thailand Open (July 10-15).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA

MALAYSIA MASTERS
Q-finals: StarHub Ch201, 3pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Tight schedule bad: shuttlers'. Print Edition | Subscribe