Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shuttletalks - RCL Shuttlecocks Review

I was very excited when I was asked to review RCL’s shuttlecocks as this would be my first review on a badminton product on Shuttletalks. Before I start talking about my experience using RCL’s shuttles, let me just talk about shuttlecocks in general.
Firstly there at 16 feathers in the shuttlecock with each feather 70mm in length. Why is it not 18, 20 or 24 but 16? Honestly I dont have an answer but I think the size, weight of the shuttle and the racquet head size was taken into consideration when they developed a shuttle. A badminton shuttlecock weighs around 4.75 - 5.50 grams. The diameter of the cork is 25-28mm and the diameter of the circle that the feathers make is around 54mm.

The feathers from the shuttles come from Geese as their feathers are strong and are suited for durability. The top grade shuttles have their feathers selected from the right wing on the goose and I was told that only a few feathers from the wings have the natural shape to make top grade shuttles.

Ok now for the real stuff… I was given 3 types of shuttles from RCL which are RCL’s Professional, Titanium and No.1. Professional being their second grade shuttles with the flight speed of 77, while Titanium was their first grade - 76 speed and No.1 being their top grade with the flight speed of 77. To me what is important is the flight of the shuttle, how the flight is maintained throughout and of course the durability of the shuttles.

With the 3 criteria’s as above, I went to the courts on Sunday to try the shuttles out with my buddies who normally use RSL shuttles ( I don’t think they are brothers or family). We normally play doubles and what better way to put these shuttles to the test. We started off playing with the Professional grade - At the start of the game, the shuttle had a very nice flight speed. Since it was doubles, there were a lot of smashing and attacking plays. One thing I notice when I was playing was that after a while, the shuttle starts losing its rounded shape at the diameter which is quite common among mid range shuttles. With that the speed of the shuttle was faster which was still alright to play with. After close to 10 points in the doubles game, we had to change the shuttle as the flight of the shuttle was just getting way faster. We used the same shuttle again during the game to give it another shot, this time around, the shuttle kept its shape during the game and we played till it wore out in slightly more than 10 points. A change of shuttle was needed in this set. As you can see below, the shuttle still had its shape but I think the shuttle’s durability is something I would consider to enhance.

RCL Professional

We decided to give the Titanium a chance this time. The shuttle was slower that the professional in general but one thing we noticed was that the Titanium was slightly more durable than the Professional in general. I didn’t like the speed as I prefer the 77 speed compared to 76. With the Titanium, the shuttle speed maintained well during the game. The feathers were durable too which is related to the speed. The shuttle lasted longer compared to the Professional however our arms got tired of the speed of the shuttle and decided to give another titanium a go. The second shuttle maintained a consistent result with the first which was good. If you look closely, you would notice that the feathers were still looks in shape and strong.

RCL Titanium after the game
A couple of matches later I decided to give the No. 1 a shot. Before even hitting the shuttle, you could feel the difference by just holding the shuttle. The feathers were well shaped and it felts stronger than the rest but then again this is top grade right. Putting the top grade shuttle to the test, we continued playing some heavy doubles. The speed of the shuttle was lovely to play with and on top of that, we were smashing extra hard to test the shuttle durability. One thing which I liked was that the shuttle could last us quite a long while with the heavy hitting, the shuttle speed was still close to what it was when we started. We played again using another shuttle just to check its consistency and to me it lived up to it being a top grade shuttle.

RCL No.1 before & after the game

Overall I would say that I would go and buy myself the RCL No.1 compared to the rest as I think it is durable and I like the flight of the shuttle. The cost for the Professional is RM 40 while the Titanium is around RM50 and the No. 1 is RM60. I think I would save money using the No.1 compared to buying the Professional simply because with the professional, it wears out very fast and I think I'll end up buying 2 tubes of the Professional compared to spending a little more for the No.1.

My buddies have mentioned that the price of shuttles in Malaysia is going to go up by RM3-5 per tube.. I think that the hike is crazy as badminton is becoming a more and more expensive game to play due to the cost of shuttles. I really hope that manufacturers would make badminton a less expensive sport so that more and more children can have the opportunity to enjoy with wonderful sport.

Ciao da maoz

Monday, November 3, 2008

French Open - Peter Gade takes the Men’s Singles Championship

Peter Gade playing his second finals in 2 weeks had a tough task in hand playing this finals against the on form Taufik Hidayat. This was one exciting game I’ve watched between these two great players. I was hoping for Taufik to take the title but Peter Gade coming into the game has been on great form.

The first game started with explosive speeds between both players and the level of the first set was one of the best singles games this year. Taufik coming in the game by playing 4 rubber sets in his journey to this final playing 3 hours and 46 minutes in the court where else Peter Gade had a total of 2 hours and 46 minutes of court time. Saying this I never expected Taufik to take the first set, but he again showed us what a great player he was by taking Peter Gade point by point in the highly intense game. Peter Gade was playing a very quick and attacking play while Taufik, defending well and converting the defence to attack. Taufik and Peter were playing some good drives around the court and both players were trying to keep the shuttle low and to create opportunity to attack. Taufik took the first game 21-16.

By taking the first game, Peter Gade changed his style of play by pulling Taufik all around the court with some great pushes and some great smashes. Taufik was still competing point by point in the second set taking all of Peter Gade’s shots and still managing to show us some great net play and some great control of the game. The game was levelled at 17-17 however Peter Gade played some fantastic attacking cross court shots to catch Taufik off guard and to win the game 21-17. It was already 40 minutes coming into the final set. This time around, Peter Gade looked fresher than Taufik who looked tired and it showed in the final set. Taufik went down easily to Peter Gade 21-7 for Peter Gade to clinch his second title in as many weeks.

All credit to Peter Gade as he managed to showcase some really brilliant badminton with Taufik. Credit to Taufik for his brilliant performance throughout the whole tournament. Both players showed some great sportsmanship and are great ambassadors to the game. The French Crowd were lucky to have seen one of the greatest badminton being played in their country and I must say, I bet the players must have had a fantastic experience playing for the lovely bunch of fans. The fans were superb and they have shown support to both Peter and Taufik and they made the atmosphere a wonderful one for players and spectators.

The French Open – Helped both players re-discover their love for badminton and it brought fans to love the game even more!

I Love this game! :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Excuse my French - Taufik Hidayat is Back!!!

Guess whose back on form? Just take a wild guess? Let me introduce you to the "Most natural and talented Badminton Player", Taufik Hidayat! Its a real pleasure to see this great man come back in form as the Badminton World has missed his world class play for more than 2 years now..

Coming into the Men's Singles French Open Semi's between Taufik and Lee Chong Wei, everyone would have thought that Lee Chong Wei would prove his World No.1 ranking by taking revenge from his defeat in the Macau Open against Taufik. Both players took a break from the Dutch Open to prepare themselves for this tournament.

Both players looked well prepared entering the competition and looking at the semi's match-up, it was an exciting match to watch. Some background lining up to the Semi's, Taufik has played 3 sets for all of his earlier rounds, and all of the matches were tough games for him. On the other side, Lee Chong Wei entered the Semi's by defeating all of his opponents in straight sets. This means in paper that Lee Chong Wei has a fresher legs coming to the Semis. On top of that, in recent years, Taufik is not known to have great stamina.

With all of these lined up for the Semi's most Malaysians were rooting for Chong Wei to take the Semis match. The game started well with Chong Wei taking the first game 21-16 as Chong Wei hit his form early in the match. Taufik knew he had to push the game to the next level by changing his style of play to a more aggressive style and he managed to do just that. He played some awesome sharp net plays and some really accurate smashes to catch Chong Wei off guard which led him to take the second set easily 21-14.

At this point, you can see two different class/standard of plays; the current World No. 1, Chong Wei and the former World No. 1, Taufik. Taufik showing to the world and the lucky French spectators that he's back in his Old Glory Playing days by playing one of his best badminton ever in the past 2 years. Each and every stroke of Taufiks had an intention/direction and he studied/anticipated every of Chong Wei strokes. Chong Wei had no answer to the mighty Taufik Hidayat! His smashes were easily returned, not just a normal return but there was one returned which STUNNED Chong Wei and MYSELF! In the 3rd and deciding set, Chong Wei had a 3/4 court opportunity to smash on the backhand side of the court which he did. Chong Wei smashed the shuttle as hard as he could cross court, to Taufik’s Backhand. As Chong Wei made the smash, he rushed forward like how anyone would anticipate a low return due to the speed of the smash. But to everyone amazement, Taufik moved his body to the backhand return and he pushed the shuttle right back to the baseline of Chong Wei's overhead and he caught Chong Wei as Chong Wei was moving to the front. As a badminton player, I have not seen such a return in ages as one need to be quick and one needs to have a strong wrist to make such a return and Taufik is the man!

On top of that there was another Taufik moment when he placed a net play for Chong Wei and Chong Wei anticipated the net play hence why he jumped forward to the net to push the shuttle to Taufik’s backhand while catching Taufik who was in the front of the net. Taufik being caught off position chased the shuttle with his back facing Chong Wei to retrieve the backhand shot which was already close to the floor. To everyone who plays badminton would only anticipate that the next shot Taufik would play would either go out, or be hanging at the front of the opponent’s court. Again, Taufik shows the world by actually driving the shuttle to Chong Wei's baseline forehand which caught Chong Wei by surprise.

Taufik took the 3rd game even easier than the 2nd by winning 21-12. There is a video download from simplybadminton's site to all those who have missed this great matchup [video 1; video 2]. This was a superb performance by Taufik and to me I think the only player who can take Lin Dan is the great Taufik Hidayat. You rarely see Taufik shows his emotions after winning but this time around, he was all smiles after beating Chong Wei. I was lucky to catch the game on Astro :) Hope you guys enjoy it too.. Taufik will be playing his old rival Peter Gade in the finals and this would be like an Old School Reunion for badminton!

Ciao da mao!