While Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu-ying has taken the women’s badminton world by storm in the last three years, winning 19 titles in the Badminton World Federation calendar and the continental Games and championships, Spain’s Carolina Marin has built her reputation by winning some of the most coveted titles in women’s singles.
The 25-year-old from Spain has won three World Championship titles, an Olympic gold medal and virtually remained unbeatable in the European Championships. She is the only European player to feature in the top rankings, which is dominated by the Asian countries.
Marin, speaking to Sportstar during the fourth season of the Pro Badminton League in Ahmedabad, said any player can win any tournament at the moment and that she’d like to play in at least one more Olympics and perhaps two.
Many different women have won singles titles in the last three years. Has the sport become very competitive?
The top-10 women badminton players are at the same level. Any player can win any tournament. I think we have to be ready to play against all, because one day one can win against a player and another day one can lose against the same player. The level is like being equal now in the top 10.
Still, Tai Tzu-ying looks a cut above the rest...
She really has a good game with many trick shots. Her performance is really good. She sustains the performance the whole year. For me, it’s difficult to keep my performance at a high level the whole year, because we have so many tournaments to play. I will try to be fit this year.
The current trend of many aspirants should make the contests at the Tokyo Olympics very interesting?
It’s going to be really tough. Everyone will prepare this year and next year for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Japanese will be ready for this tournament because the Olympics is going to be held in their country and so I know that I have to be ready for anything. Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara will prepare very hard.
What about the Chinese?
There are two girls in the top 10. There are so many other Chinese girls and they are all coming up. During the last Olympics they may not have been good, but one has to see their results in the last year. They have won so many tournaments.
The top players have to play a minimum of 12 tournaments now...
The BWF has changed all the tournaments to a new level. They are trying to persuade the players to play all those tournaments. Most of the players feel that this is really crazy because we cannot be fit during the whole year. Sometimes we suffer from injuries and we need a break.
Your observations of the PBL...
I am happy to be playing my third PBL. It’s good for me. I get opportunities to practise with good players like Lakshya Sen and Harsheel Dani. It’s a team event and quite different from the other international tournaments. In the PBL, you can interact with other players, whereas in international tournaments, you are focused on your matches.
The Rio 2016 gold medal was significant for you...
It was a dream-come-true result. Every tournament is important. The Olympics is more perhaps because you get a chance to play in it only once in four years. The World Championships are more difficult to play because you have to beat more players to win. In the Olympics, you have two players from a country. We are in some pressure at the Olympics because it comes once in four years. But winning Rio doesn’t mean defending the title in Tokyo successfully. 2020 will be a different Olympics. I would like to win one more gold medal though.
For how many years would you like to continue playing?
One more Olympics certainly and perhaps one more after that. It all depends on my performance and injuries and if I am enjoying playing the game.
What do you think of Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu?
They play different games. Both are difficult to play. They are very competitive.
Sindhu won the World Tour Finals in China...
Maybe because I was not there (laughs) ... I think she had not won a tournament the whole year; it was the last and perhaps she was very hungry to win that. I don’t know if that was the reason.
Your interest in tennis and in particular Rafael Nadal...
I don’t get time to see tennis because I am focused on my practice. There is not much time to follow it in a big way. But I see them on TV, mainly Rafael Nadal because he is my idol. I follow most of them on social media. It’s easier for me.
You are a brand ambassador for La Liga...
I like football and my favourite team is FC Barcelona. I don’t get time to see matches. And in the night, when I finish my practice and physiotherapy sessions, I want to rest and be ready for the next day's match.