Legendary Danish shuttler Morten Frost feels India should be proud of producing top badminton stars in the current generation and felt that the breakthrough for that came through Parupalli Kashyap and Saina Nehwal.
“The big breakthrough in Indian men’s singles was through Kashyap. He was the first one to make himself noticed. Saina Nehwal came as well in women’s singles and [they] became good role models and that had a great influence on what happened in last 10 years,” he said.
With four titles in 2017, Kidambi Srikanth emerged as the brightest face in India’s men’s singles badminton and Frost said it was a phenomenal achievement.
“If you look at the playing abilities of players from different countries, it is phenomenal. When it comes to men’s singles – Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Peter Gade, Taufik Hidayat and so on - they have been dominating for long time. So, the mere fact that you have one payer who is winning big international title, you should be thankful.
“I think Sameer (Verma) is coming nicely, he is 11 or 12 in the world, which is pretty awesome.”
Chaliha can play at the international level
Frost was in Guwahati to spot talent at the Senior Nationals as part of a 90-day coaching assignment with Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and Olympic Gold Quest, singled out Assam’s Ashmita Chaliha as one for the future.
“I must say I was very impressed with Ashmita,” Frost said of the 19-year-old, who gave Sindhu a good fight before losing 10-21, 20-22 in the semifinals.
“I think she’s got enough potential to make sure you push her to go and play international badminton. I am not talking about big tournaments, but lower-level international tournaments to get her some exposure, to give her opportunity to grow and gain experience.
“She’s got a lot of beautiful shots, she plays a very nifty game. She has got beautiful technique.”
About his stint in India, Frost said, “It is a great opportunity to work with young players. I have followed Indian badminton and also everybody else. India have done well in recent years and is definitely coming out specially in singles. So, when given this opportunity by Prakash and Vimal - old friends from back then – we enjoy it and it’s nice to give it to the next generation.”
‘Lot of players get burnt out’
Frost, however, said player “burn out” is a major issue in most countries.
“Every single country has the same issue. How to translate the juniors into seniors. We all have a million world champions when they are 12. But when they are 18-19, suddenly there is maybe only one left,” he rued.
“A lot of players are burning out. It is always about maintaining the hunger to win titles. For many, it could be advantageous to peak a bit later than so early. Of course, Lee Chong Wei is odd one out but a lot of players are stopping at 27-28 because they don’t find the motivation to carry on,” he said.
India have struggled to do well at the All England championship but Frost has won the prestigious title four times in eight final appearances.
“I was stubborn enough. I think it’s very important to be stubborn as a sportsperson. I learned that very early in my so-called career.”
Sindhu and Nehwal will be once again gunning for their elusive All England title but Frost wants to bet on Japanese Akane Yamaguchi walking away with the coveted silverware at the blue riband event, next month.
India will look to break a 18-year-old jinx, when Saina and Sindhu take court at next month’s Championship. Frost believes that although there won’t be any clear favourites but he is read to stick his neck out for the young Japanese woman.
India’s last All England champion was current chief national coach Pullela Gopichand in 2001 while Frost’s on-court rival Padukone was the first Indian to achieve the rare feat in 1980.
“It is total unpredictable in women’s singles, anything can happen. In all honesty, you have to accept that Tai Tzu Ying has not really performed when it matters. I’m a great fan of her game you get tears in your eyes when she plays such a beautiful game. But she hasn’t won any big title,” Frost told reporters.
‘Yamaguchi can beat them all’
Frost, an All England ‘legend’, having played eight finals and won four of them, observed as to why he doesn’t consider Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu as a contender while zeroing in on Yamaguchi.
“... and then you have a player like (Akane) Yamaguchi she can beat them all on a good day. She can run them to the ground. When you look at the All England, it’s a slow hall, you have to work really hard. It’s definitely in favour of a player of the style of Yamaguchi,” said the 60-year-old Dane.
“You would never say she would be the favourite to win, especially if you see her performance in last 4-5 tournaments. But to me, if she is well-prepared, she is definitely one of the favourites,” he added.
Talking about men’s singles, Frost named Kento Momota and Chen Long as two players who are expected to reach last four stage.
“There are some players more favourite than others. Kento Momota is up there, he is playing very consistently, I will be surprised if he is not there in the semi-final.
“I think Chen Long will also be in semi-final. Whether (Viktor) Axelsen can raise his game is a question mark. At the moment, he is not playing so well. Shi Yuqi is very much up and down. Also Ginjing can create an upset, so that’s how I see it.”