Canadian badminton players Alex Bruce & Toby Ng have beenÂ mixed doubles partners for almost three years, yet they're still figuring each other out.
"I think we're getting there," Ng told CBC Sports. "I don't think we're there yet."
By "there", Ng means getting to the point where their combined individualÂ stylesÂ work seamlessly together on the court.Â It may sound like simple teamwork, yet mixed doubles is a complex eventÂ perfected by intricate levels of partnership.Â
BruceÂ andÂ NgÂ cameÂ togetherÂ inÂ 2013Â afterÂ NgÂ andÂ hisÂ previousÂ partnerÂ GraceÂ GaoÂ partedÂ ways.Â AtÂ theÂ time,Â Bruce'sÂ
main focus was women's doubles, having only limited experience in mixed.Â However,Â the two decided to play someÂ tournaments together.Â
"I think seeing the potential that he & I had as a pair kind of really made me want to obtain better at mixed," said Bruce. "But it was unquestionably very challenging."
Different level of attack
Bruce, 25,Â had to makeÂ adjustments in order to transition from women's doubles to mixed. For Bruce,Â the main difference between the two events is that in mixed, the tactics revolve around getting the woman to the net to put shots away while the man staysÂ at the back of the court, hitting down.Â Mixed doubles brings a different levelÂ of strategy,Â tactics & opportunities to attack & defend at the net.
On the other hand, women's doubles hasÂ more of a free rotation since both players are more similar in skill & strength.
"It'sÂ just really absorbing trying to maintain the attack much more in mixed than you have to in women's doubles,"Â said Bruce.
"Tactically it's very different & challenging."Â
While Bruce had to alter her mental & physical approach to the game,Â Ng moreover was making adjustments to complimentÂ his new partner.
"[Working with Alex] is very different from my original partnership. They're very different players," said 30-year-old Ng.Â "It's going to be a lot of old habits or patterns I'm used to doing with my former partner, yet now that I'm with Alex I have to adjust. We can't keep the same assumptions from before.
"It'sÂ a lot of figuring out to do."
Making it work
And three years later, Bruce & Ng are still ironing out the kinks. Ng says not having a centralized training centre contributes to that lengthy timeline; Toronto-born Bruce trains in Ottawa while Ng trains in his hometown of Vancouver. He moreover says the complexity of the sport doesn't fast-forwardÂ any progress.Â
"There's different qualities in our sport which doesn't always mean that if you're the most physically gifted person you will win," said Ng. "There's a lot of technical & tactical components you have to consider."
But the two will see just how much progress they've madeÂ at the YonexÂ Brazil Open 2015, a test event in Rio De Janeiro beginningÂ Tuesday & lasting until Nov. 29. At the least, Ng & Bruce are looking for a quarter-final complete which would award them 3,000 points in their badminton world federation ranking & assist their chances at a spot in Rio 2016.
"I'm confident that our preparation will be satisfactory yet I just don't have a real expectation on how we'll do," said Ng.
"[The event is] moreÂ a matter of seeing if we're at the next level we want to be at or if we still need to fine tune."Â Â