As a player growing up in Brazil, away from the badminton heartlands, Ygor Coelho had a particular fondness for the YONEX All England. Fed on a diet of YouTube videos of Peter Gade and Taufik Hidayat at the All England, Coelho now has a broad grin as he contemplates the magnitude of his journey to the world’s oldest tournament.
Coelho runs his gaze across the empty stands on the eve of the 111th edition of the All England. He knows that this year, with the COVID-19 safety protocols in place, there won’t be any spectators during the event. Still, for him, the event will remain iconic.
“It’s quite special,” Coelho says, his eyes lighting up. “This is the oldest tournament and it’s about history. It means a lot to me. I cannot compare it to any other tournament, but it’s almost like the World Championships, because everyone is at 100 per cent and that’s what makes it special. People give a lot for this tournament. To be here, we need to be in the top 32 in the world, and not so many Pan Am players have that chance and the level to be here. If I’m here means that it’s very prestigious.
“When I was young, I used to see a lot of videos of Peter Gade and Taufik playing here. It’s a dream coming true because I saw them on YouTube and now I’m part of this tournament. That’s such a great feeling.”
This isn’t his first All England – he’d played here once before, in 2018, where he ran into one of his heroes, Lee Chong Wei.
This year is different, though, because the All England is only his second international tournament since undergoing hip surgery last July.
Like other events held under COVID-19 safety protocols, the All England will miss the crowds this time, and it will be a quieter event. For Coelho, though, that doesn’t take away from the joy of being here.
“It will be a little bit different than what we are used to. But it’s still special, because the hall, the volunteers… I like the volunteers so much. They are very nice. The organisers are very professional, they take care of us very well. I will miss the crowd but I still think the All England is very professional and the people really care about us.”
Having played only one event since his comeback – the YONEX Swiss Open earlier this month – Coelho is keen to test where he stands, physically and technically.
“My condition is good and I have been practising hard. I’ve been working on a lot of physical stuff, on technique and deception and tactics. I want to see how I perform. I was away from tournaments and team matches for a long period and played my first tournament two weeks ago and I lost in the first round. So I’m really looking forward to see if I can deliver what I trained for.”