Owe my return from injury to changes in practice, mentality: Carolina Marin
It has been a sensational season for Carolina Marin, having won the World Championships for a record third time earlier this year. After injuries post her Olympic gold in 2016, Marin seems to have hit top gear, bagging titles in China, Hong Kong and clinching the European Championships this year.
Part of Pune 7 Aces, who make their debut in the Premier Badminton League, Marin will lock horns with Hyderabad Hunters’ PV Sindhu in the season opener here on December 22. Ahead of the marquee clash, the world No 4 spoke about how difficult it was to shrug off injuries, be among the contenders again and her targets for 2019.
How would you define 2018?
The performance during the year has got better, so I feel very happy. From the World Championships until the end of the year, it has been great.
Would you agree that China’s domination has come to an end?
I don’t think so. You can see so many young players coming up. They (China) are not finished yet. They have so many players who are not in the top of the ranking now but have two in the top-10.
But hasn’t it got a bit more open given that there are two Japanese, two Chinese, two Indians…
Of course, it’s very open now. In the top-10 we almost have the same ranking so any player can win a tournament now.
You say it’s open and but end up becoming the first player to win three World Championship titles… How do you explain that?
(Chuckles) I feel I prepared well for the big tournaments? I believed that I could win big tournaments, believed in my team, had the support and that’s very important for me… And yeah, I just did it!
It perhaps wasn’t as simple as you put it. There were injuries, lack of form…
It was very difficult. Because I lost… I didn’t believe in myself, I thought maybe I couldn’t win another big title, I cannot be the player that I was, I was scared to come back, I wasn’t motivated to keep practicing. It was very hard these one-and-a-half-years. But now I believe more in myself because I did so many changes in my practice and mentality.
Among the things that you lost in the process, is also the world No 1 ranking. Does it bother you?
I’m of course trying to be world No 1 again but it’s not my main goal. I didn’t keep that as my focus because I know Tai Tzu Ying is doing really good. She’s a great player. So my goal is just to keep motivating myself, and keep working hard and focus on the main goal.
Given you just mentioned Tai Tzu, who do you feel is your toughest rival at the moment?
I always say it’s me (laughs). Can’t name one because any player is always difficult to play.
I’ll keep it simple because you’re in India. Sindhu or Saina?
Both players are great so I cannot choose one of them. I cannot choose between one of the top-10 players because every player has a different strategy, different game, so I have to adapt my game according to the player.
Sindhu just won the World Tour Finals? Did you see her play?
Yeah, of course. I’ve been there. I think she did great. I feel happy that she could win a big title.
On court, Marin is an aggressive player with a lot of focus. How is she off it?
Well, (she) is totally different (laughs). Opposite completely. Carolina Marin out of the court is a very friendly girl, she likes to laugh; be with friends and family. She’s a very open person. I like to cook as well but the problem is I don’t have much time because I’m travelling.
A Spanish player had won just one match at the Olympics before you won gold. Have you created a legacy in your country?
I think so, because there are so many changes in Spain… Already many people know about badminton, and I feel happy that Spanish people want to follow my sport. Not just myself because they like how I play, but also my sport. After the (Rio) Games, I could see there were so many kids and their parents interested in the sport.
You have been competing in PBL since 2013. An experienced player at a new franchise… How do you see the season for your side?
I feel happy to be a part of the new team. Let’s see how it goes. I’m excited to meet the rest of the team, players and practice with them.
What’s the aim for 2019?
I want to care about my body, injuries and keep working harder to win some more big titles.
Is the Tokyo Olympics playing on your mind?
Well, it’s not time for the next Olympic Games so… My focus is on 2019 where I have a number of tournaments to play that I would like to win, and then I will think about the Olympic Games.