Saturday, June 1, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
On a good run since they came together as a pair this year, Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek are looking to build on their progress and cause some ripples at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019 in August.
The Dutch mixed doubles duo, semifinalists at the Malaysia Masters and German Open earlier this year, were undefeated in four matches at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019, which helped their team finish third in Group 2.
Their performance augurs well for the World Championships in Basel, with the No.44-ranked pair backing themselves to make the quarterfinals.
“It’s a great confidence boost for us in the run-up to Basel,” said Tabeling, following their fourth straight victory in Nanning, over Germany’s Marvin Seidel/Isabel Herttrich. “I think we can cause some upsets there. It’s a still a long way, but we’re aiming for a quarterfinal. I can dare to say that, especially if you beat pairs like this.”
Having drawn satisfaction from their show in Nanning – among the pairs they beat were Ronan Labar/Anne Tran and Seidel/Herttrich – the focus for the Dutch duo shifts to the European Games before they start their preparations for Basel.
“Our performance here means we are on the right track,” said Piek. “We had a bump in the road a few weeks ago with Robin being ill. But we feel that we’re progressing each match and I personally get a lot of confidence from beating some good pairs, like Labar and Tran who won the Denmark International. They’re top 20, so it’s a good tournament for us.
“The European Games is the most important thing on our minds right now, at the end of June. We want to get a medal there. Obviously there are important Olympic points to get there. Then there are the World Championships. And qualifying for the Olympics is at the back of our minds, but that’s not our main goal, because if you do well, you will get points anyway.”
Tabeling and Piek were with different partners – Tabeling with Cheryl Seinen and Piek with Jacco Arends – but decided to join forces this year. The move has worked well – they were quarterfinalists at the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters, semifinalists at the Malaysia Masters and German Open, and winners of the Austria Open and Brazil International Challenge. Their record this year includes victories over top pairs like Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock, Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino, Yuki Kaneko/Misaki Matsutomo and Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti.
“In Malaysia we had two-three good wins over top ten pairs and Olympic medallists, so out of there we gained a lot of confidence,” said Tabeling. “We found the rhythm on court and in practice and I think we helped each other a lot on court and we managed to play at high speed with high pressure. And we specially surprised some pairs.”
Having established a strong start as a new combination, the Dutch pair knows they will have to keep working on their on-court relationship.
“The most important thing is communication on court,” says Tabeling. “Every person is different. And every person needs to approached differently, and you need to learn each other in that way, that’s the hardest part. Because we can both play badminton, and if we agree on some situations, we both know what to do, and if we do it, that’s no problem. But the communication between points and outside of the court, that’s the most important thing, because it’s far more intense.”
“It takes time, but it’s also a little bit instinctive,” adds Piek. “You need to feel how he’s doing on court. You really get to know each other when times are bad. We had a good start, but we also had some struggles. Those moments really help you grow as a person. We are completely honest with each other, that’s really important if this relationship and pairing is to grow.”