CANDRA WIJAYA is one of the reigning dieties of doubles badminton. The Indonesian, a gold medallist at the Olympics (2000) and World Championships (1997) and winner of every major title several times over, is in Hyderabad for the India Open. Candra has been able to combine brilliantly with several partners, including Sigit Budiarto, Tony Gunawan, and now Joko Riyadi. The soft-spoken 33-year-old opens up to DEV S SUKUMAR about the magic of doubles and his ambitions for this form of the game:
You’ve played top-level badminton for a decade and a half. What changes do you observe in doubles?
Right now, it’s more about strategy and technique rather than the physical element. In the 15×3 points system it was more physically intense. Over the next five years, I think it will remain more or less the way it is. The 21×3 points system gives everybody a chance.
Is it important to be friends with your partner to be a successful combination?
Yes, you must have a good relationship — then you will know what each of you must do on court. That’s important. Me and Tony (Gunawan), we just practise individually, because he’s in the US. But we know each other well, so on court we know how much each can do. We think alike, we have the same character.
Indian pair Jwala and Shruti have had a strained relationship, and there is talk of them splitting. What would you say to them?
They must talk to each other. The problem in doubles is similar to that between husband and wife. There will always be problems. So we must care for each other, because we win together. You don’t win for yourself. Then you must take care of your selfishness and your ego, and besides that you must support your partner and help him. In doubles there will always be problems. Even if your partner is your brother or family, there will be problems. In the beginning everything will be great and everyone will be happy, but after one or two years problems come up. Maybe it gets boring and you look for something new or different. But at one level you must care for stability and consistency.
You’ve played with a few partners over the years. How do you manage to adjust?
Maybe it’s because my communication is good… you need to learn to share, because everybody is different. It’s about building relationships. For me, doubles is more interesting because you have to find a balance with your partner, you must care for each other. And while you work together you must beat your opponent also. It’s like a science, but it’s also an art.
If a problem comes up, you how you solve it?
You cannot be selfish. You cannot be a good player if you are selfish and if you cannot care for your relationships. Harmony is very important.
You’ve been in so many big matches. How do you prepare mentally before a big match?
Yeah, I learn everything. It’s a big secret (laughs).The point is if you’re only thinking for yourself, you cannot be a good pair. On court, me and my partner have to know how much we need to do. Achievement will come of itself.
Are you happy with the way the badminton circuit is designed?
For singles it’s okay, because they have many tournaments. But doubles players like me need more than that. That’s why I make this tournament specially for doubles. The prize money in Super Series events should be higher. I have so many plans in badminton. I want to give. If I’m still a good player, I want to continue. You can watch me and see my talents on court. I have big plans in future. Next month I will be organising a tournament in Indonesia exclusively for men’s doubles. This is the first time in the world such an event is being held. My friends from India are welcome.
Doubles players haven’t got the recognition they deserve…
It’s important to have one event at one time. For me it’s very interesting… because it’s not easy to become a champion. Hopefully next year the tournament will become part of the BWF calender. I’ve designed a special gold trophy as well. There will also be exhibition matches between me and Tony (Gunawan) against (world champions) Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan and me and Sigit Budiarto against Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainacky. We also plan to honour the legends of doubles, two pairs every year. This is apart from my plans to open the Candra Wijaya International Badminton Centre for doubles.
What do you make of the recession? The Indonesian federation hasn’t been able to fund its training camps…
Sport must go on. But it must have support. If there is no money, you can’t have achievements. Sport is not as influenced by the recession as business, so I hope things improve. The chairman of PBSI (Indonesian federation) is from the army. The problem is that he has power but he has to learn about badminton step by step.
Are you worried about the decline of singles talent in Indonesia?
Yes, very worrying. When I look around, I see that people like playing doubles more than singles. My son also likes doubles more than singles. He’s seven — maybe he wants to become like me. Right now he doesn’t know it’s difficult to play doubles.
What’s your opinion of Indian doubles?
You must search for many more players to train. Your first pair (Sanave/ Rupesh) is strategic and technical, but there’s still some way to go. They can learn more about situational play… when to attack or defend, and looking for opportunities to make a point. The mixed doubles pair (Jwala/ Diju) have done well, they are a good pair.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in Cirebon, four hours from Jakarta by car. I took up the game when I was six. My family used to play, but only for fun. When I wanted to take it up seriously, I moved to Jakarta. I was eleven then. I was not talented, but I was very determined, very hard working, By the time I was 16 or 17, I wanted to prove that I would become a top player, a world champion, .
With so many doubles players during your time, what was the one thing that helped you become better than them?
Maybe it’s about instinct, maybe I worked harder than them.
What are the happiest moments in your career?
Of course the Olympics (2000) was unforgettable; It’s not easy to get the gold. I’m very proud and thankful about my career and my achievements.
Is it time for players to play individually rather than for the country? Taufik Hidayat is playing on his own now…
I was the first to come out of the national association and become professional two years ago. The time is right to make badminton professional, like tennis. It will happen slowly. You cannot stop it.