The current rally point system in badminton requires players to play at high intensity and speed. When a player gets injured, like a knee or a back injury, speed becomes a big roadblock upon recovering.
Akane Yamaguchi who suffered a lower back injury in the middle of last year has been trying to get back to her peak performance.
In an interview with Olympic Channel, Yamaguchi who is currently ranked 3rd in the world said, “Speed is something I’ve been paying attention to, whether it’s my footwork or rallies. Because I don’t think I’m as quick as I’ve been when I was at my best. When I was injured in the summer, I couldn’t train as often as I wanted to. Just before I got hurt, I felt like I was playing really well.
“The first half of the season, everything went well, performance, results, etc. The second half, I couldn’t play very well, the results weren’t that great. It was a year where I experienced both the good and the bad. “
Just before she got injured, Yamaguchi won back to back titles at the Indonesia Open and the Japan Open. In the first half of 2019, she won 4 titles in 5 finals. She also reached the semi-final of 3 other tournaments.
After returning from her injury in August, her first tournament was the BWF World Championships. She was the No. 1 seed in the tournament and received a bye in the first round. Everyone was stunned when she lost to an unseeded Yeo Jia Min in the Round of 32. This loss was followed by three more first-round losses in the next three tournaments.
Overall, the second half of 2019 was rather disappointing by her standard – she could manage only 4 semi-finals from 9 tournaments played. However, Yamaguchi seems to have turned over a new leaf in 2020. She won the 2020 Thailand Thailand Masters in January by beating formidable opponents like Carolina Marin (in the Semi-final) and An Se Young (in the final). She also performed well at the All England in March.
The delay of the Tokyo Olympics has given Yamaguchi plenty of time to restore her match fitness, “Right now, I’m thinking too much about how I used to play. And that is slowing me down, I think. I need to stop overthinking and just get back to enjoying the game of badminton.”
“I’m not really the type to feel pressure. You feel weighed down, don’t move as well as you can. I think when you put yourself under unnecessary pressure, thinking too much can overtake you. Which is why I try not to overthink and simply take in the game, enjoy it. I take a deep breath before the match starts and usually that takes care of it,” added Yamaguchi.