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(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Nguyen bounces back from 'Long Covid' to stun Srikanth
Date: 3/17/2021 6:02 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen, one of Europe’s brightest young talents, scored a big win over eighth seed Srikanth Kidambi at the All England Open 2021. However, two weeks ago a win like this looked very unlikely. 

Six weeks before the Swiss Open 2021, Nguyen had a significant blow to his normal training routine, having to recover from contracting COVID-19. Playing against Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab was always going to be a tough match in Basel, especially when Nguyen admitted he had been not going 100 per cent in training. 

Leading comfortably in the match, Nguyen started to feel that his lungs were not quite right. 

-In the second game, my fitness and mental focus kind of deteriorated and playing a player like him, he capitalised and took advantage. 

‘Long Covid’ are symptoms that continue to persist weeks and months after the illness. For an athlete, this can have a serious impact on performance. During and after the interview, Nguyen was visibly upset by this development and worried about his short-term performance prospects at this pivotal moment in his career. 

Two weeks later
In Birmingham today, Nhat Nguyen faced India’s number one, Srikanth Kidambi. They faced twice before. Both times at the World Championships in 2018 and 2019. The latter went to three games, however, Srikanth finished strongly. Srikanth also performed well in Basel, reaching the semifinal, only losing out to the eventual winner, Viktor Axelsen. 

Nguyen caught Srikanth by surprise in the opening game today, winning 21-11. Inevitably, Srikanth gave a response in the second game. With an expectation that the player ranked 44 places higher in the world would kick away in the third game, Nguyen refused to let up. 

The 2018 European Junior Championships bronze medallist shook off the Long Covid he has been affected by in Switzerland. Being 11-9 at the change of ends, the young Irishman scored seven points in a row, lost one point, then continued his charge with five more, winning the decider 21-12. 

-In the first game I felt good, but in the second game I just felt tired a little bit again. The same happened in Switzerland, so I worked very hard on my physical side. In the third game, I did feel tired, but I felt I had more energy.
 
Ecstatic
Talking about this momentous win, Nguyen explained why it clicked this time around. 

-I am so happy. For the last year or two I had so many chances to beat top players and I did not take them. This time I am so happy that I could change my mindset during the game and took the win. 

-I just started focused on one point at a time. Before I was just looking at the finishing point. When I was 11-9 down, I was thinking ‘just get to 10 and I’ll be happy, then ‘if I get to 11-11 I’ll be happy’. I then kept that momentum and I feel that was the crucial part of the game and I am ecstatic, Nguyen ended. 

Nguyen will now face Dutch ace Mark Caljouw in the second round. 
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