This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Badminton’s marathon man Kunlavut Vitidsarn wants to run opponents to the ground

Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsarn duing the Singapore Badminton Open after a 21-13, 21-17 win over France's Christo Popov on Friday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE – The way Kunlavut Vitidsarn has been dominating three-game matches this season, one could be forgiven that he is a marathoner in disguise.

Out of the 26 matches he played this season, 12 went to the wire, and the Thai won 11 of them en route to capturing the India Open and last week’s Thailand Open.

No other men’s singles player in the top 10 of the world rankings has played more deciders or have a better win rate in them than the 22-year-old Thai this season.

“There is no secret,” world No. 3 Kunlavut claimed, even though he has improved from his 7-4 record in matches that went the distance in 2022.

He gave a sheepish smile as he added: “The longest distance I have run is 10km during my academy days, and I was so tired, I walked.

“This week, I am also very tired after winning the Thailand Open. But I have to keep playing because I need to progress further to get more points to qualify for the Olympics.”

When probed, he shared that he trains up to six hours a day, working on his fitness in the morning and technique on the court in the afternoon.

“It is important to have a good balance of fitness, muscles and skills to produce strong performances,” said Kunlavut, who uncharacteristically beat Frenchman Christo Popov in straight games 21-13, 21-17 on Friday to advance to the Singapore Badminton Open semi-finals, where he will meet world No. 2 Anthony Ginting on Saturday.

It is not just fitness and flair, for Kunlavut also possesses the rare quality to stay calm, adapt and find solutions in tight situations.

He said: “In a packed season like this, there is no time to rest. I don’t think I can do extra work, because I would get injured easily. It’s tiring enough already.

“So, I just try everything on the court. If my net play is not good, I try to change strategy and fix my performance during the match. This year, I just persist and I am in better control of my mentality and mindset than last year.”

Kunlavut’s career almost didn’t take off.

As a child, he suffered from allergies that were so bad, he had to go to the hospital.

In an earlier interview, he said: “If the weather was cold, like in an air-conditioned environment, and I stepped out into warm weather, my nose could not handle it. I used to go to the hospital once or twice a week. Now, it is better most times, except in Europe.”

Little did he know that badminton would be the cure.

When he was seven, his father, who is a badminton coach, taught him the sport, which led to his condition improving. He soon started enjoying the sport.

Growing up, he idolised Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei for his speed, “incredible attack and great defence”.

But it was former world champion Ratchanok Intanon whose path he would follow, as the Bangkok native joined the Bangthongyord Badminton School where Ratchanok was moulded.

Under the tutelage of Udom Luangphetcharaporn, who is also Thailand national coach, Kunlavut became the only player to win three consecutive boys’ singles titles at the World Junior Championships from 2017 to 2019, matching Ratchanok’s historic feat in the girls’ singles from 2009 to 2011.

Udom told BWF: “He has to develop his speed, and control his weight. It’s important that he controls his diet. If he can do that, he will be much faster and can take on anyone.

“His special quality is that the way he plays makes it very difficult for opponents to read where he’s going to hit, what direction the shot is coming. He has many variations in shots and at the net. He can play difficult shots...

“He’s already so good. You can see he played so many tournaments and he could win a few. It means his mind is tough.”

But Kunlavut is determined to continue with a “sabai sabai” (thai for taking things in his stride) attitude as he targets success at the world championships and Olympics.

He said: “When I think too much, I can make easy mistakes. When I play without pressure, I can play anything.”