“Players and umpires are both struggling with the new service rule,” says doubles ace Sikki Reddy
The ongoing Yonex German Open 2018 in Mülheim an der Ruhr has become a testing ground for the Badminton World Federation (BWF)’s newly implemented service rule that has met with criticism ever since the world body announced it. Unlike the previous rule that required the shuttle to be below the last rib of the server, from this month the whole of the shuttle cannot exceed a height of 1.15m from the surface of the court at the point of hitting.
Even though the BWF justified that this major step was an attempt to eradicate errors by service judges, the decision threw the badminton world into a lot of confusion. The taller shuttlers have been clueless how they will manage to cope with this radical change as demonstrated by the World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in his many hilarious videos, which underlined the core of the problem.
Thus, the German Open, which is otherwise supposed to be a relatively quiet Super 300 tournament ahead of the prestigious All England Open, is the centre of attention now. In the first event that is following the new service rule, the scene is pretty much what one expected.
Both the players and the umpires are facing the same struggle as they try putting in their best efforts to embrace this new idea. Sikki Reddy, who is one-half of India’s No. 1 mixed doubles as well as women’s doubles teams, spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda about the ordeal.
She and Pranaav Jerry Chopra ground out a hard-fought 24-22, 17-21, 21-19 win over the World No. 142 mixed doubles pair of Chang Ko-Chi and Cheng Chi Ya as they got their first taste of the highly-talked about and much controversial service rule.
Calling the experience ‘challenging’, Reddy said that BWF’s decision has turned the focus away from producing an overall good performance in doubles. The service is where the shuttlers are investing all their efforts to cut down the faults, bringing down the quality of play.
“It was very challenging. Doubles game starts with service only. So all players have become more conscious on service now,” said Reddy.
Players are getting irritated during matches
The former Syed Modi International champion also spoke about how players have been forced to hastily adapt to a new style of serve just for this. Yet, they haven’t been able to eliminate service faults and that is only adding to their frustration during matches.
“Many players are struggling with the new rule of service,” said Reddy. “I was watching a couple of matches and so many players changed their service style and still getting faults and getting irritated. They literally hit some services so badly that even the opponents couldn’t expect,” she recounted.
The chief national coach, Pullela Gopichand brought in renowned international umpire, Vemuri Sudhakar to help players at his academy get accustomed to the contentious service rule. Sikki said that it was definitely a bonus and his guidance has so far been extremely beneficial.
However, Sudhakar had also cautioned them that there could be debatable umpiring as even the officials are pretty new to it. His advice under such circumstances has come in handy as Sikki revealed how the umpires too are grappling with this change.
“Yes, we have worked with Sudhakar Sir just for a couple of days and yes, it helped us. But not all umpires are as perfect as him. He guided us well and told us, ‘Don’t worry even if they give fault also. Just be mentally strong and serve confidently.’
“Even umpires are struggling as it is very new to them. They are also working on it.”