The Thomas Cup holds powerful memories for Kenneth Jonassen, who will now lead his team as chief coach for the TOTAL BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Aarhus next month.
As a vital member of his team for seven Thomas Cup campaigns, Jonassen had often to deal with immense pressure. The most striking memory however is of a funny sidelight in the middle of an intense three-game brawl in Jakarta against home icon Taufik Hidayat.
“The one that always pops out is the Thomas Cup 2004 semifinal against Indonesia. I played against Taufik, crazy three sets. I was sweating like never before, it was so hot in there. Between the second and third sets I was changing shorts and I was shielded by Peter Gade with a big towel in the middle of the stadium. We had a five-minute break, but I couldn’t get anywhere with all those spectators!”
Of his victories, the one he remembers most was his 2002 win over Lee Hyun Il that set Denmark on the way to a semifinal place. He’d played first singles for Denmark as Peter Gade was injured.
“On the other hand, I’ve had some bad losses, most of the championships where I felt personally responsible for letting the team down.”
Apart from his contributions to the team, Jonassen did enjoy significant success in individual events. The biggest of these were victories at the Singapore Open 2004, where he beat Lee Chong Wei in the final, and the Korea Open 2003, where he got the better of Park Tae Sang.
Another prized moment for Jonassen was winning his first and only European Championships in 2008, well into his thirties.
All through his playing career, Jonassen was known for his work ethic, his never-say-die attitude, and his analytical mind – qualities that have helped him become a respected coach.
And while his on-court career ended not so long ago, Jonassen identifies more closely with his current role as coach rather than his past as a player.
“Unless people ask about it, I use very little time to think about my personal play. That is behind me… I have more than enough experience as a coach now, not to spend any time on my personal playing days. To be honest, it (playing career) means absolutely nothing to me today. I’m a badminton coach now, not a badminton player. I have a history as a player, but I think my coaching history since 2010 coming to more than 10 years now is a lot stronger than me as a player.”