Photo: Badmintonphoto
Robin Tabeling: This was something I was hoping for
Date: 5/6/2020 10:31 AM
Published by : BEC staff

It is hard to believe that it was almost two months ago that we saw the Dutch mixed duo of Robin Tabeling and Piek defeat the world number ones in Birmingham. We catch up with Tabeling to reflect on their journey as a pair. 

In mixed doubles, Tabeling sits handsomely at number 16 in the world, helped by a standout quarterfinal result at the All England Open two months ago, just before the suspension of tournaments by BWF. Tabeling talks about how the partnership faired when they first started playing with each other. 

- Actually, our first few tournaments together started out really well, setting the bar pretty high to develop our partnership. However, I think we succeeded in becoming better and better, despite some flaws last summer. I knew Selena was more experienced than me and I needed to step up my game to compete at the level she was used to, but that only made me more eager to develop myself. But I think we have shown, with ups and downs along the way, we are still moving in the right direction. This was something I was hoping for when we started but looking back, I am not unsatisfied with the development so far. 

The year of 2019 was a good one. Tabeling won the bronze at the European Games with Jelle Maas in the men’s doubles and he was also a key part of the bronze medal-winning Dutch team at the European Mixed Team Championships. What does Tabeling now expect from 2020?

- Expectations are pretty low, meaning that I think we have to wait for quite some time to get out there and play tournaments again like before. We will probably start training soon, but I think my main focus of 2020 will be to get back in shape again after not playing for six weeks. And improving while training instead of playing matches. 

Read: Guillaume Gailly: The top-level is much higher

Body and mind

Tabeling, 26, is still rapidly progressing as a player. His partner, Piek, is 28 and the more experienced of the two. Asking Tabeling if he fears that one day she will retire, leaving him with no mixed doubles partner. 

- Not really, as I think we will commit to the partnership for a period where we both feel comfortable about. Anything can change. If in the meantime something happens to the body or the mind, but we are pretty open to each other about this and I don’t think she will really surprise me out of the blue with a decision like that. But if we keep improving and winning, there is no reason for her to retire before me. 

Naturally, there is much focus on the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, and only following its conclusion, the new Olympic cycle begins. However, knowing that the 2024 Olympics will be on European soil. Paris, France, to be precise. Speaking about whether they have one eye on this target, Tabeling says. 

- At first, things have changed massively with the postponement of the Olympics to 2021, making the gap to the next Olympics only three years. Have we ever spoke about it, yes. But we are really just focussing on qualifying for Tokyo, as the mixed doubles field is pretty strong nowadays with a lot of couples from different countries. First things first!

Read: Thom Gicquel: We reached 15 in the world quite quickly

Watanabe and Seo

In modern badminton, the sight of players playing two categories is decreasing. Tabeling shares his thoughts on this.

- It has pros and cons, but I really like to play both disciplines. There are only a few players excelling in both disciplines, Yuta Watanabe and Seo Sung Jae for example, so it is possible, but a very tough task. For me I started the qualification trying to qualify in both events, so that is what I am a 100 per cent in for. 

Tabeling goes on to explain how long he can continue doing this for. 

- I think I am physically fit enough, and I like playing both disciplines. After that, we will have to evaluate and see what the future holds if focussing on one discipline would maybe be better or continue with both. But everything is also based on opinions from my partners and trainers. 

Tabeling has proven more than capable of battling it out with the very best in both mixed and men’s doubles. But what does he see himself as? More of a men’s doubles or mixed doubles player. 

- That is a tough question. Actually, I have always performed better in mixed doubles, also during my youth career, so it’s the easy way out to say I’m more of a mixed doubles player. Also, because I feel more comfortable at the backcourt and this is usually the working area for the men in the mixed doubles. 

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