The epithets are exhausted. There is nothing left to describe Peter Gade, who, over the last 15 years, has not just held the European banner aloft in world badminton, but has presented an impeccable face of the contemporary badminton player to the world.
Gade is the most courteous of all contemporary players, with both fans and media, and takes his responsibilities seriously. He has rarely – if ever – refused a request to air his thoughts, and it’s no different this time at the India Open, to which he came after a disappointing quarterfinal loss at the European Championships. The man with dozens of titles from across the world is unlike most players in the way he expresses himself.
It has been a disappointing season so far for Gade – probably the worst in recent memory. At his final All England, he was ousted in the very first round in a late-night match in front of a handful of spectators. Since the Denmark Open in October, he hasn’t made the semis of any tournament and that must rankle. But Gade never indulges in wordplay and is honest about himself. “My game is uphill,” he said, of his opening round at the India Open Superseries. “I need to take on what I can from my matches. It won’t be my best game, but I fought the best I could. “
Ask him about his physical condition (he’s 35), and he admits that he isn’t at his best. “For me at the moment, it’s not going the way I want to,” he says. “But also because of injuries I’ve had lately, my rhythm is kinda lost. I need to get into rhythm again. Because of the injuries I’ve had, my body is not going the way I want it to. But I have to keep working and hope it will turn around. I know at some point it will come. Having said that, the other players still have to work hard to beat me. “
The European Championships that ended last week saw a continuation of his bad run of form, and he lost to a player few imagined he was capable of losing to – Henri Hurskainen of Sweden. “Of course it’s disappointing, but it’s my own fault,” says Gade. “I was leading 18-12 and lost the match. But that’s what happens sometimes.”
Gade runs into Shon Wan Ho of Korea on Friday. The crowd has already taken to him. Irrespective of his performance, they will cheer him on all the way, for he has already won the popularity stakes.