Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

Badminton legends Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, left, and Lin Dan of China have complained that competing in so many events this year would be a burden, especially with their age. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018

Top badminton players Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan concerned about new tournament format

KUALA LUMPUR: World number one Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan have expressed concerns about a new badminton tournament structure requiring players to compete in more events.
The complaints emerged at the Malaysia Masters in Kuala Lumpur, which has been upgraded this year by governing body the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as it looks to raise the sport’s profile and ramp up revenues.
The new tour series — featuring six levels and higher prize money — kicks off this year and runs until 2021. At least a million dollars is up for grabs in each of its top four events.
But it also requires athletes to compete in more events — the top 15 singles players and top 10 doubles pairings must take part in 12 a year, an additional two from the previous structure.
The Malaysia Masters, which has seen its prize money almost triple to $350,000, attracted many more big names than it had in the past as players seek to fulfill the requirements.
But some complained competing in so many events this year would be a burden, and a string of top players crashed out on the opening day Wednesday — world number two Lee, five-time world champion Lin and Olympic champion Chen Long.
Lee said he was prepared to pay a penalty to skip an event if he felt he needed to.
“If I have to pay a fine for skipping an event, I will. I’m not 25 anymore, I’m 36 this year,” said Lee Wednesday after losing to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.
“I don’t think BWF will review the format, because if they wanted to, they would have done it.”
Denmark’s Axelsen, who beat South Korea’s Lee Hyun-Il in the opening round, was also critical: “We (would) rather have high quality than too many tournaments where the best players can’t perform because we don’t have time to train.”
Five-time world champion Lin, who was beaten by Indonesia’s Ihsan Maulana Mustofa, added: “The top players will focus on the big tournaments... If we have to play in so many tournaments, we won’t play our best.”
The BWF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Malaysia Masters runs until Sunday.

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

Updated 30 September 2020

Fati delights, Jovic disappoints, optimism for Atletico

  • Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will all be hoping to build on their first wins of the season as La Liga heads into its fourth round of games this week.

Here are the five talking points ahead of the midweek fixtures.

For the first time in a long time, Barcelona can enjoy some calm after a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first match of the season on Sunday.

Lionel Messi scored on his first competitive appearance since attempting to leave in the summer but most exciting was the performance of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati, who scored twice and won a penalty.

Ronald Koeman must decide how to make the most of the teenager, whose maturity on the pitch belies his age and whose body might not be ready to start every week.

But Fati's pace, movement and decision-making are all so impressive it will be difficult to leave him out, as Barca look to build on that win at Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 formation during his team's 3-2 win at Real Betis on Saturday as Luka Jovic was deployed up front alongside Karim Benzema.

But the Serbian striker failed to take his chance, instead enduring another underwhelming night before going off with 18 minutes to go.

It remains to be seen whether Zidane persists with Jovic at home to Real Valladolid on Wednesday, or at all, given Madrid could yet decide to let their €60 million (today $70 million) signing leave before the end of the transfer window.

When Eden Hazard regains fitness, that spot next to Benzema will belong to the Belgian so Jovic's window of opportunity may be small. Time would appear to be running out.

Atletico scored 19 fewer goals than champions Real Madrid last season and 35 fewer than Barcelona.

So hitting six against Granada on Sunday offered some early encouragement that this season's Atletico, boosted by the arrival of Luis Suarez in attack, can put those scoring problems behind them.

Suarez stole the show after scoring twice on his debut but Joao Felix was arguably the biggest plus for Diego Simeone, who will hope the 20-year-old's excellent display is the start of a more consistent campaign.

Atletico go up against newly promoted Huesca on Wednesday, the kind of game they slipped up in too often last season.

Even defeat by Real Madrid could not knock Real Betis off the top of the table, as Manuel Pellegrini's team enjoy the benefits of a strong start and more games played than the traditional powerhouses three weeks into the season.

But there is cause for optimism longer-term as Betis began with wins against Alaves and Real Valladolid, before matching Madrid for prolonged spells until their opponents pulled away in the second half.

With the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and Joaquin, this Betis squad has not lacked for attacking talent but solidity at the back has too often been an afterthought.

Villarreal face Alaves on Wednesday, with pressure already on both coaches. Villarreal have four points from their opening three games but a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday, as well as a draw at home to newly-promoted Huesca means Unai Emery could do with a victory.

Alaves, meanwhile, are second bottom after managing just a point from their first three games, with Pablo Machin seeking a first win at la Ceramica.

Valencia have also made a stuttering start, a draw at home to Huesca on Saturday coming on the back of a surprise loss away at Celta Vigo.

New coach Javi Gracia has already expressed disappointment with the club's summer transfer dealings, meaning credit with the board may be lacking if results do not improve.