Silver medal at Yonex Dutch Open. In spite of or thanks to new scoring system?

The Yonex Dutch Open is the only Grand Prix tournament in the Netherlands. Every year in October it is organized in the Top Sport Arena in Almere. This year the Dutch Open was one of the tournaments that was appointed to experiment with the new scoring system 5 games to 11 without setting. It was also one of the last opportunities to test this system internationally. Looking back it was a nice tournament fortunately attracting large crowds, especially in the weekend, which led to an enthusiastic and occasionally exuberant atmosphere. An attractive and stimulating environment for the players to put up a tremendous performance. An added plus was the smart way the games were shown on Badminton Europe TV and to millions of TV viewers particularly in Asia.

Due to injuries Samantha and I couldn’t participate last year but now we joined in and were seeded seventh. The mixed doubles tournament was quite strong. A number of top 25 mixed doubles registered, among which a large delegation from badminton mecca Indonesia.

In the first rounds our way of playing was a matter of building up level. Nevertheless, we managed to win the first two rounds in 5 and 4 games respectively. On Friday we played the quarter finals and we had the first real confrontation.

Our opponents were Yun Lung Chan and Ying Suet Tse from Hong Kong, the numbers 4 of the seeding list. This pair has performed well this year and is currently 25th in the world ranking. Among other good performances they reached the semi-finals at the Korea Open Premier Super Series during which, for example, they defeated the couple Adcock from England which currently is 5th in the ranking.
We succeeded to win this match in five games and that was an example of a mental victory, an aspect which is very important in the new scoring system. After we had won the first game by 11-10, we lost game 2 and 3 with 4-11 and in the fourth game we survived a matchpoint. In this particular rally we were very much forced to go on the defensive, but also with some luck, we were able to score the winning point. In game five we could finally push through and we won by 11-3. I am sure that again the mental factor was decisive.

In the semifinals on Super Saturday we met two “acquaintances”, the Russians Durkin and Vislova. Earlier this year we played this pair in the quarterfinals of the European Championship in Russia which was the fight for a European Championship medal. Then we won in a long lasting match of 3 games to 21 and we went out of our minds. Now we won again in three games, only this match was much shorter now, only 26 minutes, and less exciting. But it meant a place in the final and there was every reason to go crazy.

And then Sunday, the day of the finals of the Dutch Open. The atmosphere in the Arena is very good, co-driven by the Indonesians in the audience who have countrymen represented in 4 finals. After a good briefing and analysis by our coach Kim we start our warming-up. We are the second match of the day. After the prize-giving ceremony of the women’s singles final, we are called and with loud applause we enter the arena.

From the first moment on we can play our own game and take a big lead. We even get to 10-7 but nevertheless we do not win that game, 10-11. Still we do play a good game and we manage to keep that level in game 2 and 3 which we win. In the fourth game we take a 6-3 lead. Than a long rally follows in which we are forced to go on the defensive. The Indonesians play a flat smash which should have gone out over the back line but we are in the way of the shuttle and just cannot avoid it. Lucky for them. After this rally we twice work careless and it’s a tie. From this moment on the Indonesians are getting increasingly confident that a fifth game is possible. We can still play the right game just like we want to but ….we are just too eager. We seem to have lost our patience in the rallies, the way of building them up and finishing them off. That’s how we lose the fourth game. Somewhat affected we start game five and soon we are far behind. In this scoring system it’s almost impossible to make that up again and that is how we lose the game and the match.

The first few days I have had a bad feeling about this final, but on the other hand I’m also very proud of our performance during this tournament and the level that we have achieved in this final battle. Our coach confirmed my own feelings: “you both played your best badminton today, the best match you two ever played together”.

Moreover, we cannot be and shall not be disappointed too long because next week the French Open Super Series in Paris is scheduled. Again we play Indonesians but this time again with the familiar best of 3 games to 21. Although we had good results with the experimental scoring system during the Dutch Open I remain an opponent of its implementation. All the arguments against which I mentioned in my previous blog are still valid except the one that matches will be shorter. Considering the fact that there are 9 minutes break off time at a 5 game match it will be a matter of time that matches will easily last over an hour!! In between my matches I have spoken many people in the audience and it was remarkable that most of them were not enthusiastic about the new scoring system. People find it messy and dislike the many intervals which kill the dynamics of a match. I hope the BWF is going to take all the feedback seriously and above all that they will listen to the players who, with the exception of a few, are against the implementation of this system.

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