Gilmour back on the winning trail in Austria

KIRSTY GILMOUR marked her return to international tournament competition this afternoon with a solid 21-14 21-17 win over Denmark’s Sofie Holmboe Dahl at the Austrian Open in Vienna.

Until today, Gilmour’s only tournament since representing Team GB at the Rio Olympics in August was the Yonex Scottish National Championships in Perth at the start of February when she won her sixth consecutive women’s singles title and a first mixed doubles title to add to her four previous women’s doubles crowns.

Today Gilmour began strongly and opened up a 9-4 lead. Although 20-year-old Dahl recovered to 9-9 Gilmour won nine of the next 12 points to provide the platform for her to take the first game 21-14.

In the second game she took control from 4-4 and, helped by a five-point surge, opened a 15-8 lead. But Dahl closed to within two points to trail 16-14 before Gilmour pushed on to clinch the contest after 31 minutes, under the watchful eye of Scotland's new head coach Tat Meng Wong.

The win puts her on the first step towards regaining her place in the world’s top 20 after inactivity following knee surgery saw the Commonwealth Games and European silver medallist’s world ranking slip to 54 in today’s latest list.

But tougher tests await the sixth seed - in the second round, she will face either Denmark’s Julie Dawall Jakobsen or Germany’s Luis Heim; and, if she progresses, Japan’s top seed Yui Hashimoto is set to be the quarter-final obstacle.

Five-times Scottish National men’s singles winner Kieran Merrilees and 2016 champion Matthew Carder are in first-round action later this afternoon. Fourth seed Merrilees faces Subhankar Dey of India while Carder meets Croatian Zvonimir Durkinjak after the latter two players were promoted from qualifying.

Tonight Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh, the national men’s doubles winners, are the fourth seeds and begin their challenge against qualifiers Aleksander Jablonski and Pawel Smilowski of Poland.

In the women’s doubles fourth seeds Rebekka Findlay and Caitlin Pringle are also in action tonight against Denmark’s Irina Andersen and Julie Jokobsen.