Nguyen Tien Minh, the only badminton player in Vietnam to make it to the top 100 in world rankings, and who has been consistently among the top 10 for several years now, is hurt by comments that he is psychologically weak.
Speaking to Thanh Nien on a Vietnam Airlines flight to Jakarta on Wednesday (November 2), the 8th-ranked 28-year-old Minh asked that the fans and critics try to understand him before making judgments.
"Each time I lose a match, lots of fans and pundits blame psychological weaknesses for my defeat.
"I know why I lose and what lessons I should learn from such a loss to improve myself. Some people don't watch me play. They just collect information on the Internet and jump to the conclusion that I am psychologically or physically weak."
Minh said he is upset by such comments. He said a high-ranked player's loss is mainly caused by his or her strategies and ways of dealing with that strategies of rivals, rather than the psychological or physical weaknesses. People would make fairer judgments if they understood the situation this way, Minh said.
Asked if the absence of the world number one Malaysian Lee Chong Wei will be a boost for him at the SEA Games 2011, Minh said it is an advantage, but his task is not easy.
"It is an advantage for all the participants including myself, but it can't be said that I have a big opportunity because many other competitors are improving every day.
"In badminton, the rankings are done on a relative basis. I am currently ranked eighth in the world but if I am unlucky or can't concentrate for a moment or don't do my best in any game, I will have to pay dearly for it because many players are equally good."
Minh said there are four very strong rivals at the coming SEA Games. The most dangerous is Indonesia's No. 1 Taufik Hidayat [ranked 6th in the world], who won the men's singles title at the 24th SEA Games in 2007. The second is Indonesia's No. 2 Simon Santoso [ranked 12th], who won the men's singles championship at the 25th SEA Games. Thailand's number two, Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk [ranked 34th in the world] and Malaysia' growing star Daren Liew [ranked 60th], are also big contestants.
Minh said he has both won and lost to three of the players mentioned above, but Simon Santoso has beaten him all the three times they have played each other.
Asked if he thinks he can beat those players this time, Minh said, "It's important to have confidence and determination to win for the country.
"My form has been consistent. This year, I've competed in 12 tournaments. I won the men's singles championship at the Vietnam Open, finished second at the US Open and third at the Taiwan Open.
"I'm pleased with my recent achievements but anything may happen in a competition. What I hope now is for an advantageous draw, and for fans and critics to understand me and not put pressure on me."
About his goal in Indonesia, Minh said, "It will be very hard, especially in matches against host Indonesian players who will have strong support from their home fans, but I hope I will go the farthest and try to get a better medal than the bronze I won at the 24th SEA Games in 2007."