What happens during a global pandemic when you and your partner cannot practice because you’re in different cities or countries?
Italy’s Yuri Ferrigno, teaming up with Switzerland’s Luca Olgiati, faced just this issue as they competed at the final qualifying event of the Wheelchair (WH1-WH2) competition for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics for just the second time ever.
“We played together in Dubai, so yes this is our second time playing together,” said Ferrigno after their comfortable 21-3 21-5 win in Group B over Kuwait’s Mohmmad Nezar and Sayed Yaseen on Wednesday.
“Well, the practice is pretty difficult, but with the language it works. I speak some Italian, Luca speaks English, so we make it work. We’re good friends. When you’re good friends you can’t complain because it’s about understanding and feeling what your partner is feeling,” added Ferrigno.
Olgiati concurs that interaction and contact are the drivers of their doubles success.
“Communication between the partners and of course the individual qualities, but mostly the communication,” added Olgiati.
New doubles partnerships
France’s top seeds Thomas Jakobs and David Toupe in the Wheelchair (WH1-WH2), also in Group B took on newly-formed men’s doubles duo Matsumoto Takumi and Keito Nishumura from Japan in the opening round.
Making light work of the first game, the French No.2 seeds fought back in the second to clinch the win 21-9 21-17.
David Toupe thinks true partnership is based on the principles of friendship and practice.
“We didn’t know the players (Takumi/Nishimura), but with us working so well together, we knew it would be great. We had good adaptation with the opponents we faced. They were very strong at the back so we just needed to change up our tactics and go point-by-point,” smiled Jakobs.
Toupe added: “The friendship first of all is what makes this work so well. Of course practice, practice, practice too. We know how to play and how to help each other out.”
The final match of Day 2 saw a roaring, but socially distanced team squad of support as Valeska Knoblauch and Elke Rongen (WH1 WH2) from Germany took on fierce Russian rivals Liliia Prokofeva and Natalia Prokofeva (WH1- WH2) who are edging closer in the rankings to the German pair in a bid to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Fortune and form saw the bronze medallists from the BWF World Para Badminton Championships 2013 win 21-11 19-21 21-14. The German pair put their doubles success down to teamwork.
“We’ve known each other a long time and we can read each other really well. Mentally and on court too. I know what Elke does and if I stick to the game plan, we are really successful,” revealed Knoblauch post-match.