Aragon badminton coach Linda Brown cannot be accused of being a homer, not after she forfeited Candy Zhang’s quarterfinal match at the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division championships, which Aragon hosted.
Zhang, a two-time defending Central Coast Section champion, was late for her match and Brown, as the tournament coordinator, was forced to forfeit her match in the double-elimination tournament.
“She wasn’t on time,” Brown said. “She went to an English teacher to ask her a question. I didn’t have to time to go out and find her. I would look like a homer (if I didn’t forfeit her match). She walked in (about five minutes later) and she had the biggest, sheepish grin on her face.”
It was merely blip on the radar for Zhang. Being relegated to the loser’s bracket, Zhang cruised through those matches and secured a place in the finals. She needed to beat the winner’s bracket winner twice to claim the crown and after blitzing her opponent in the first match, her opponent forfeited the second match.
Zhang then cruised to her third straight CCS singles championship, which clinched her as the San Mateo Daily Journal’s Badminton Player of the Year.
Not even moving from sideout to rally scoring this season could derail Zhang.
“It just made her matches quicker,” Brown said.
In sideout scoring, players only score points on their serve. In rally scoring, a point is awarded after every serve.
In winning three CCS titles in three year, Zhang lost only one set in 12 CCS matches over the previous three seasons. In fact, her opponents have managed double-digit points in only seven of those 12 matches — four of which came this season.
“I think she’s one of those players who can watch a match and know what the opposing player is going to do and set herself up to be in the right position,” Brown said.
Zhang’s biggest competition this season came from Carlmont’s Tracy Chu, who is clearly the second-best badminton player in CCS. But Zhang beat Chu twice during the regular season, beat her in the PAL tournament and then beat her two more times in CCS — once in the winner’s bracket final and again in the championship match.
“As she starts to play better competition, she steps up her game,” Brown said. “You start to see her shots step up in effectiveness. You see her full skill level. “
Not counting her forfeit in the PAL championships, Zhang lost only one match on the court this year — and it was in doubles competition.
“I asked her if she wanted to play doubles against a South City doubles team, who was really good,” Brown said. “She hadn’t even practiced with her partner, so I won’t count (that loss) against her.”
While badminton has seen a renaissance over the last several years that has seen the sport go from a recreational sport mostly played a picnics into a seriously competitive sport, Zhang has been ahead of the curve. Her parents own and operate Affinity Badminton Club in San Carlos and Zhang has been playing at the national and international level for several years.
“Kids are starting to train seriously now. Candy was one of the first one on the bandwagon,” Brown said.