India’s former doubles player Jwala Gutta, in a recent interview with the Times of India, praised Lin Dan for his confidence and said that Lin Dan is an individualistic, charismatic, and a gifted player. She pointed Lin Dan’s persona by saying, “In a group photo, if you look closely, there will always be one person who will be different. Let’s just say, Lin Dan will stand out in a group photo.”
Gutta also pointed out that Lin Dan is very different from the other Chinese players. She says she has known Lin Dan since the 2000 world junior championships in Guangzhou. She said all the other Chinese players had a “sameness” about them, be it their style of play, their training, their footwork, their attitude on and off court, but not Lin Dan. He had always been different.
She says Lin Dan is aggressive, stylish, and gives out the “I know I’m the best vibe.” She compares this to European players where their attitude doesn’t fade even if they are losing a match. Such an attitude is rare to see in the Chinese badminton set up where the national team is under the control of the government, she continued.
Gutta also applauded the former Chinese head coach Li Yong Bo for the freedom he allowed Lin Dan on and off court, and also the far-sighted wisdom he had to change the Chinese badminton to suit a more modernised era.
She said, “He understands that change cannot be avoided. He did what I call westernization of an old culture.”
When asked if a player like Lin Dan could thrive in India, Gutta said no.
She says a player with a mentality and uniqueness like Lin Dan will not be accepted in India. This is because of the “herd mentality” that is prevalent in the country. “For an individual to grow, you need to give some space” and if the space if not given to develop, it is difficult to thrive, continued Gutta.
Gutta also commented on the biggest rivalry in the badminton world. She says even though the Lee Chong Wei beats Lin Dan in the smaller tournaments, Lin Dan outshines him in the bigger tournaments because he has a strong mentality. Lin Dan is a smart player and he intimidates Lee Chong Wei.
She comments that sometimes the Chinese may look lazy on court, but “he’s just smart.” Lin Dan may look arrogant because “he literally walk(s) on court!”
“You cannot walk on court unless you know which area of court the opponent is going to return to,” Gutta said on Lin Dan’s playing style.
She concluded the interview by saying, “There are many champions, but only a few legends.”