When BWF, badminton's global administrative body, announced its schedule for 2018, many players were left aghast. It was going to be a crammed calendar, especially for those countries like India and Malaysia who had to play in both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
But 2018 wasn't tough only for players from these two countries. It also adversely affected players all over the world. There were far too many injuries and several players looked exhausted by the time the World Tour Finals came around in December.
2019 didn't have the Asian Games but it had everything else and several players sustained injuries through it. While Carolina Marin was unfortunate to tear her ACL in January itself, several players found it tough to keep their level of performance consistent through the 12 months.
Time has come for the BWF to moderate the workload on players. What ordinary fans want to see is high-quality badminton. That cannot be provided if players are playing at less than 100% fitness or not giving their best. This seemed to happen way too often this calendar year. That doesn't make for attractive contest.
One great example of a player getting stretched to the limit is Shi Yu Qi of China. By winning the All England Open and World Tour Finals last year, he proved that he is probably the only player in the world capable of stopping Kento Momota. However, this year, he struggled with his fitness. Some of it may have been regardless of the calendar but over-exertion certainly played a part.
As a result, we didn't get to see too many great contests between Momota and Shi. Many people expect these two to emerge as the new Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan in this generation. While Momota too struggled at times with his intensity, Shi was unable to even compete by the second half of the year.
In such a situation, we would see too tournaments where players would not play to their potential. The injuries to another top Chinese player – Chen Yu Fei – luckily got healed in time for her to make a comeback and finish the year on top. But the lesson remains. In the upcoming year, with the Olympics being the prize, players may not give the World Tour events the respect they deserve.