Both of us love to attack,” said Shida. Our speedy attack is our weapon. I hope you will pay attention to it.
Chiharu Shida (25), a member of the Japan badminton women’s doubles team, said. The Shidamatsu pair, which includes Nami Matsuyama (24), won the Indonesian Open, one of the three major tournaments held last June, and also the All-England Open in March of this year. In the past year, they have quickly risen to 5th in the world rankings, and are a promising new pair.
When we asked the candidates to be the next heroines for the World Badminton Tokyo 2022, which will be held in Japan for the first time from the 21st of this month, they expressed their confidence in their own style and their enthusiasm for the world’s big stage. (All of the following quotes in brackets are from Shida’s remarks.)
Matsuyama and I don’t use a lot of lobs, and we both like to play low and return the ball low. We try to create a rhythm by returning the ball as low and fast as possible. That is why the game develops quickly, and the two players switch places frequently. I think this style of play is the best part of the game.
Because women’s smashes are not as fast as men’s, they often use big lobs and rally in a relaxed manner rather than risky low, aggressive returns. In such a situation, their “no-lob strategy” is unique.
Of course, we use big lobs, too. The key is to have a good balance between the two. Our weapon is low and fast rallies, but if that is all we do, our opponents will be able to read us. Over the past year, when we have been playing against the world’s best, we have learned how to use lobs and other moves to take advantage of our speed and attack, and we have broadened our tactics to make the most of our weapons, which I think has led to our good results.
Strengths of a partner realized after being away from each other
The two have been paired since high school. Originally, Shida’s smash from the rear guard was handled by Matsuyama from the front guard. The reason for their current style is due to an incident that can be described as “the benefit of injury.
In October of last year, Matsuyama and Misaki Matsuyoshi (30) of the Rio Olympics gold medal winning Takamatsu pair, played together in a match because of a sprained foot. I usually don’t have a chance to watch Matsuyama’s rear guard, but on this occasion I was watching from the outside and thought, ‘Matsuyama’s rear guard is amazing. I thought, ‘Matsuyama’s rear guard is amazing, let’s entrust them more. Until now, I had been aware that I was the rear guard, so even if I was in front, I had the mindset that I had to stay back. But I realized that if I moved more boldly at the vanguard, perhaps it would be easier for the back to cover me. We talked about it together, and gradually we came to our current style.
With the style he had developed, he made his first appearance at the British Open and won for the first time.
The most satisfying match was the quarterfinal against the Korean pair. Even against a top player, who was ranked No. 3 in the world at the time, we felt that our speed and attack could work when we got it right. In addition, we were able to fight with the same energy and balance that I mentioned earlier. We were able to win the championship with the momentum we had, and it was a battle that gave us a lot of confidence.
The Shidamatsu Pair has been on a meteoric rise to stardom. When we asked them what they do to relax while competing around the world, they shyly told us that they “love Nogizaka46.
Before a match, I often listen to Nogizaka46 to help me concentrate. Also, when I want to get away from badminton completely during my time off, I often watch live video games. My love for live music has become so great that I wear a live T-shirt in my pajamas (laughs). I am happy that my overseas tours have increased, but it is a pity that I am getting busier and have fewer opportunities to experience Nogizaka.
Shida is currently making her final preparations in Tokyo for the “World Badminton Tokyo 2022,” where the world’s top players will gather. We asked her about her determination to take on the world stage.
I want to win a gold medal,” she said. Especially since the World Championships will be held in Tokyo, it will probably be the first and last time for me to compete in badminton. I always compete overseas, so I don’t have the chance to show my game in front of my family and fans who support me, so it would be great to win in front of them. For that reason, I want to play with no regrets. Also, there is a branded bag that I have been wanting to get for a long time (laughs). If I win, I want to go buy it as a reward for myself.
Shida ended the interview with a smile. In her first major competition, she has her eyes set on nothing but the top.
Photo： Reishunkan (1st and 3rd photos) Kyodo News (2nd and 4th photos)