Thailand Tournaments to Set the Tone for 2021 - A GoBadmiton Exclusive

By: Editor
Date: 04 Jan, 2021
Image Courtesy: GoBadminton
January 12th, 2021 – the day YONEX Thailand Open kicks off in Bangkok, could well be a day to remember in the annals of badminton history. Indeed, badminton comes back into action in earnest following a nine-month long corona virus shutdown and it is anyone’s guess as to how the event will unfold. Even as teams begin to touch down in the Thai capital for mandatory quarantine prior to the tournaments kicking off, teams and players are having to pull out and no one is yet quite sure of who will be on the court in a little over a week’s time.

And for now, that’s the first challenge indeed – getting enough top-class players from around the world to take to the court for a topflight badminton tournament. Ever since the game went into a lockdown at the end of March 2020, there have been several attempts to restart the game under corona virus regulations – as many other sports have done, and succeeded – but so far success has eluded the authorities.

First it was to have been the Thomas & Uber Cup last year, then the Denmark Open and while the Denmark Open did take place it was largely European players and just a one-off tournament without much impetus. And now at the third time of trying, here we are in the Thai capital city of Bangkok, brimming with anticipation but also a little bit of anxiety, for sure.

Badminton Association of Thailand has taken all the measures and more to ensure a safe bubble for players arriving from all the different parts of the world, but the challenges just don’t end with the bubble. Almost all of the players have spent, for the very first time in their careers, such a long spell on the side-lines, away from competitive action.

The world badminton body themselves shares this concern, as a featured story on the BWF site, written in December, said, “Early this year, for the first time in their lives, most of the world’s best players spent prolonged spells away from the court; with the gradual easing of lockdowns in their respective countries, they returned to training but only a few among them were able to participate in international competition.”

While all of the players have resumed training and have been at various national centres prepping up for an inevitable return to competition, no one quite has had enough match-practice to claim any meaningful advantage. Additionally, the players will spend a week leading up to the tournament in isolation restricting their ability to practice and leaving them with little time to prep for the tournament. 

Life in the bubble, as several other sportspersons are beginning to discover isn’t sustainable over the long run. Burnout, mental taxation, restlessness, and other challenges become very real and inevitable. Not to mention breach of protocols, transit infections, and withdrawals at the last minute – there are so many variables to be factored.

And yet all this considered, the Yonex Thailand Open, is expected to usher in a new era indeed. A successful first tournament will be a huge shot in the arm for the governing body, other host nations, the players, and of course the fans. It will serve as a template for future tournaments until normalcy returns to the courts and our lives, if ever!

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