Tine Baun, the only woman in the past ten years to deny China an All England singles title, will finish a landmark career this week at the tournament which helped make her world number one. The 33-year-old Dane’s two All England triumphs in 2008 and 2010 were islands in a large sea of Chinese success which has seen their outstanding squads win the women’s singles 13 times in 15 years.
Baun’s two finals with world champion Wang Yihan – one won, one lost – have been among the All England’s great highlights and the rivals are seeded to meet again in Friday’s quarter-finals. Although Baun’s retirement may see an even greater period of Chinese dominance, she would consider one more big match with Wang as a very fitting finish.
“The All England is special for me: these were the biggest victories of my career. That’s why the decision is to end my career here now,” Baun said.
“After last year my feeling was ‘oh no, this can’t be my last time playing the All England’,” she added, a reference to the four quarter-final match points she boldly earned but was agonisingly unable to convert in another thrilling tussle with Wang.
But predicting the final note of Baun’s swansong is more than usually difficult. Given her variable capacity for unstoppable attack, and the rising quality of the field, any outcome of success or failure is possible. She is seeded seventh, and on her day can still trouble the best but as she says: “My standard is up and down. I have been playing good matches and then afterwards I am terrible. I am quite unpredictable, how I play.
”When I looked at the draw I was happy to have a qualifier (in the first round), though even that’s a difficult game,” she said. “It was only a top ten player that I didn’t want to face in the first round.
“Of course it would be nice to progress to play Wang again in the quarter-finals. But there may be a difficult second round, against Li Han another Chinese player. There are now so many good players, so it’s going to be tough all the way.”
Her aim however is to finish with the right feeling as much as the right result at a tournament she loves the best.
“The main thing is to go on court and enjoy being there, remembering all the good things and smiling, and also (to enjoy) being at the end because I feel good about that too.”
The top seed is Li Xuerui, who was a surprise winner last year, but has since developed into the leading player, capturing the Olympic title. But although Baun thinks Li is the player to beat she also feels that beating any Chinese player is “a big thing.”
Wang is seeded three, and Saina Nehwal, the Commonwealth champion from India, at two. Nehwal is thus seeded for her first final, though she could have a difficult quarter-final with Wang Shi-Xian, the sixth seeded Chinese player who won the All England two years ago.
Asked if the future would now be all China, Baun commented: “I think many things are coming. Taiwan has done well, and have some good young players.
“The Japanese are making good results too. It’s more difficult even to win a first round match in the Super Series now.”
A Danish successor to herself will take time. When her compatriot Camilla Martin, the 2002 All England champion, called it a day, Baun (then Rasmussen) lifted her standard suddenly and spectacularly.
But right now her team mates are young, she points out. “They have some good talent, but it will be very difficult to go straight into the top ten. They need to look five years forward I think,” she said. “But I hope they will grow with more responsibility.”
From next week onwards Baun will fill her time by studying nutrition. She also hopes to start a family with Martin Baun, her physio, whom she married three years ago. But the transition from the travelling life she loves and away from the sport she adores may be difficult.
“I just hope that I can finish off in a good way, and play my sort of game as I want to,” she concludes. “And that if I lose, I lose to a better opponent, instead of playing terrible. Hopefully that smile will be there.”
Photo by BadmintonPhoto, Article by Kate Manning.
The original article has been published on allenglandbadminton.com