“I mean, how can you not like going in there and playing in front of that crowd?” asks Anders Antonsen, a startling counter-query to a question about pressure.
This was at the Indonesia Open, nearly six months after he’s achieved his career’s biggest title at the same venue, winning the Indonesia Masters. He’d thrived in the raucous atmosphere, beating no less an opponent than Kento Momota in the final in January. A few months later, on his way to a second final in Indonesia, Antonsen contemplated what it meant playing in front of that crowd. Players often refer to the pressure of playing in such an atmosphere, but for Antonsen, there are no second thoughts on what it means to him.
“No, no, no – I don’t think much of pressure. Many people talk about pressure, but actually I feel no pressure. I just like to play badminton, and that’s 100 per cent honest. So… yeah, I don’t feel any pressure, this is what I like to do.”
The Dane has had a season with mixed luck, but has shown enough to be considered one of the leading contenders. His defeat of Momota in January was a tactical masterclass; he went on to make the final of the Barcelona Spain Masters and win the European Games, before reaching the final of the Indonesia Open. In between, though, he suffered early exits at the All England, the Malaysia Open, and the Singapore Open.
He acknowledges that, despite the high of the Indonesia Masters title, he hasn’t managed to keep his foot on the pedal all the way.
“The Indonesia Masters title came as a surprise for everyone and also a little bit for myself. So I’m still working on getting a consistent high level. I know my top level is really high, and I showed that the last time I was here. The struggle for me is to maintain that high level. But it’s tough, the competition is tough,” he says.
“I’m not the only hard-working player. Everyone is working hard, it’s tough competition, and even though I try my absolute best every day, it’s not always enough. You need the luck and you need that momentum, that confidence that you’ve seen in a lot of players. Like if you watch Momota’s run last year, and Viktor has had a run like that. All those (top) guys have had that run. I feel I’m on track and I feel it’s not so far away for me to have that momentum. I think I’m heading in the right direction.”
Antonsen, seeded fifth, is unlikely to be worried about his draw at the World Championships. Up first will be Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon, followed by Malaysia’s Liew Daren or Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab. Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama in the third round is a possibility. Chen Long or Ng Ka Long Angus are likely quarterfinal opponents.
Antonsen takes heart from his performance at the last World Championships, where he was the only player to trouble eventual champion Momota.
“It’s going to be fun,” says Antonsen. “I played a good World Championships last year, I played a good match with Kento Momota. A World Championships medal is a really big dream of mine. I feel in good shape, so it’s going to be exciting.”