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Popov: I have to fill the gap as soon as possible

4/3/2020 9:01 AM |  BadmintonEurope.com |  BEC Staff

As is well documented, France is producing some top young European prospects at the moment. One of the early gems to catch the eye was Toma Junior Popov. 


At just 16, Popov won a bronze medal at the 2015 European Junior Championships, losing to eventual winner and now world championship silver medallist, Anders Antonsen. Two years later, in front of a big French crowd in Mulhouse, he won the gold in singles, and also in doubles with Thom Gicquel. 


Since then, Popov has won seven senior singles titles, which gives the feeling he has been around for a long time on the circuit, despite still only being 21. He discusses what it is like for to be playing at the big stage. 


-It is a little weird even for me as I started to play senior tournaments at 16, so it’s a long time ago. People are thinking that I am older, but no I am 21. I feel really happy to play at the big stage with my young age and prove that I have my place and that I will be here for a long time.


Read: Stoevas: There is no mercy


It will be impossible

Popov has been developing at a fast rate. Asking about what he still needs to develop further to beat the best, he says. 


- Of course, it is a little step, but it seems like a huge one! I have to fill the gap as soon as possible. I need to improve my footwork because I am a tall guy, my precision, my lifts, my attacks and my safe style without mistakes and wait for the opportunity. I’m a little bit impatient at times.


At the European Men’s and Women’s Team Championships, and also on the circuit, we have seen Popov playing both singles and doubles. Popov shares his thoughts on how long this will last for. 


- For now, no top player does that, but until I can play both I will do it. I know that in the future it will be impossible. However, I am really happy that I proved the fact I can with my junior gold medals, my two quarterfinals at the world juniors in Bilbao and great matches against top 20 players.


Often Popov’s doubles partner is his younger brother, Christo. Another top young French talent. Speaking about the pressure that comes with this hope and expectation from his country, Popov said.

- I don’t know if all the eyes are on us, but obviously, it puts pressure on us to always perform and be in shape. But I think we deal with it really well at the moment.


Popov adds a comment about being around his brother and dad a lot of the time with the sheer amount of training, tournaments and travel he does. 


- All three of us have a special relationship that only a few people can handle. First of all, we separate the two spheres: family and badminton. After my dad and my brother, I don’t see them all the time because everyone is busy in the day between all the training. So, it helps us to have time for ourselves.




 
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