At one point during the match between Carolina Marin and Sung Ji Hyun in the Premier Badminton League semi-final, coach Fernando Rivas stood up and applauded when the Spaniard won a point with a backhand drive that her opponent left and landed exactly on the line.
There was nothing extra-ordinary in the winning stroke. But the speed at which Marin had moved in the rally to first wriggle out of a tight situation and then create an opportunity to find a winner was spectacular. Sung could simply smile at her helplessness.
Rivas had an expression of glee as he sat through the remainder of the match rather relaxed thereafter despite the fact that his ward had lost the first game. “The first game was not good but she played really well in the second and third,” he said. “The Premier Badminton League was a test for us and she is going some good results here.”
Marin has struggled with injuries since her Rio Olympics triumph. The hip injury she sustained during the Hong Kong Superseries last year not only kept her out of the Dubai Superseries Finals in December but had also cast doubts on whether she would be ready for the gruelling 2018 calendar. The Badminton World Federation has made it mandatory for top players to play minimum of 12 tournaments.
Although the 24-year-old did win the Japan Superseries and reached two more major finals in 2017, the fear factor surrounding the Spaniard has been missing. Marin admitted that her motivation levels were also pretty low and she needed time to once again rejuvenate herself and continue to do the same things over and over again.
“It’s difficult. Actually, it is really difficult,” she said. “After the Olympics, I thought I have now won everything. Now what else. Also, I got a serious injury so I couldn’t practice 100% until January, when I came for PBL last year. Yes, it is difficult to keep your mind thinking about another dream, about another goal.”
Tweak in training
Rivas admitted there were some challenges while trying to get Marin back to winning ways and things only got complicated with the frequent injuries she suffered in the last 12 months. They have tweaked a few things in her training and regimentation to bring back the hunger.
“I can’t really tell you what we have been doing,” he said. “Maybe I will tell you once I stop coaching. But we had to change a few things for sure.
“I have a certain approach that doesn’t change. But between the things that I strongly believe I have to keep alternatives, otherwise doing the same things over and over again becomes boring. I believe that once I complete one process then I am not the same person. It’s like a relay race. I can’t take the same leg [again].”
Marin, who took the Hyderabad Hunters to the final, insists that she is still not 100% fit but is getting better, and the PBL was providing her a good platform for the season ahead.
The Spaniard would be playing the Malaysia, Indonesia and India Open later this month but her real focus would be to get back to her best before the All England in March.
That is also part of the process as they have decided to focus on peaking at major tournaments considering the increased the number of tournaments a player has to compete in from this year.
As for Marin, she has been working with her team and a psychologist to get back her motivation. She said that playing with her dogs and relaxing at home has been a good relaxation for her during the injury phase and she was now ready for the grind.
“I have to think that I am just 24 years old and I have to win more titles,” she said. “Like another All England, another World Championship, may be another Olympic Games. So, I have more dreams to achieve.”
Not a very good piece of news for her opponents.