Falcons players are about to hit the road for another international tour which starts next week with the Badminton Oceania-sanctioned Northern Marianas Open.
The International Challenge event in Saipan will provide a fresh challenge for high-performance player Jack Yu who plans to put recent experience at the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals into action when he hits the court.
“Playing at the Sudirman Cup definitely opened my eyes to what it’s like on the world stage,” he said.
“There were so many great players to observe. I could see what they do tactic-wise and how strong they are on court – but more than ever I am motivated to catch up to their level.”
One of the major learning experiences for Yu came in the form of a singles match against India’s Prannoy H.S which he went down fighting 8-21, 8-21.
“Physically there was a big difference between us. His stamina on court was crazy and could maintain that level of speed for hours,” Yu said.
“It has motivated me to try and close that gap and try my best, especially when I head to the Marianas.”
One challenge that Yu is excited for is his opening singles match in the round of 64 next week where he will be going head-to-head against Japanese third seed Yushi Tanaka.
“He’s a very strong player and I am expecting a tough match,” Yu said.
“My goal is to try my best and see what I can learn from this tournament.”
Another Falcon who is looking to use experience from Sudirman to improve her performance on this upcoming international tour is 2023 Cliff Cutt Memorial Trophy winner Kaitlyn Ea.
In Suzhou Ea paired with Angela Yu and Gronya Somerville in the Women’s Doubles, an experience which has motivated her ahead of her trip to the Marianas.
“Most of all I saw how the best players in the world conduct themselves,” Ea said.
“They can produce creative shots which allows for different opportunities on court.
“I really am looking to replicate this style of play in the upcoming tournaments.”
One of Ea’s first matches is alongside Somerville in the Women’s Doubles round of 16 against Chinese Taipei’s Ching Hui Chang and Ching Tun Yang.
“It’s a tough draw, but I plan to continue learning from my time on court,” she said.
As it stands, Ea will play both events in the Marianas, the Northern Marianas Open 2023 and Saipan International, before she will remain on tour for other events across Asia and North America.
“I am definitely aiming to get into some quarter and semi-finals while also ensuring I strengthen my doubles partnerships for the future,” she said.
“I also enjoy the experience of travelling to play in tournaments as It’s given me an opportunity to see the world and experience new cultures.
“The training can be tough, but I always welcome a good challenge.”
National Head Coach Leanne Choo said the experience at Sudirman had given several of the players new and improved skills ahead of this next block of international tournaments.
“I am proud of all the players’ efforts in Suzhou. We drew a tough group and the goal going there was to win a match and we were able to do that, which I am happy about,” Choo said.
“Some were able to show they can compete with the world’s best. Everyone gave their best efforts and the team supported each other throughout the event.
“On this next block of international events, some players will be on the road for four to six weeks. This would usually feel like quite a long time to be away; however, they have already experienced something similar during the European tour we did earlier in the year.”
Choo predicts strong competition at the first two tournaments in the Marianas, but believes the Australian players are well equipped for a challenge.
“The competition is tough wherever you travel as it’s an Olympic qualification period,” she said.
“There are lots of players competing from strong badminton nations including Chinese-Taipei, Japan and Korea.
“However, our players are well prepared and they will definitely have some great matches ahead next week.”
Once on the road, the team will be aiming for strong results, but at the same time Choo said there were also plenty of lessons to be learned along the way.
“It is important for the younger players to start getting accustomed to being on the road and gaining experience playing across all parts of the world,” she said.
“International competitions are an aspect of our sport that we don’t get enough of because Australia is geographically so far away.
“The sooner younger players are exposed to these enriching experiences, the more tools they will have to be able to deal with certain situations and environments.
“It also plays a huge part in their personal development too, which is something Badminton Australia values for our players.”
Photo Credits: Badminton Photo (Erika Sawauchi, Jnanesh Salian)