Gilmour aiming for seventh heaven in Perth

Kirsty Gilmour’s pursuit of a seventh straight Nationals singles title will begin on Saturday afternoon.

A win this year would bring her level with Joanna Flockhart, who won seven titles from 1973-1980 and a step closer to Anne Robertson’s nine titles, won over the course of 10 seasons from 1988-1998.

Gilmour, the Scottish Open Grand Prix champion, has lifted the YONEX Scottish National Championships trophy every year since 2012 and the top seed will start her campaign this year in the second round, having been granted a first round bye.

There she will play either Alice Campbell or Sarah Sidebottom when the women’s singles competition gets underway in Bell’s Sports Centre, Perth, this weekend.

As second seed, there is also a bye for Rachel Sugden, who is looking to build on the semi-final place she secured last year.

But her route to the latter stages is far from easy as either Basia Grodynska or Lauren Middleton await in round two while Julie MacPherson – last year’s runner-up – could be a potential semi-final opponent.

Meanwhile Kieran Merrilees is among those awarded a bye in the men’s singles first round, bidding for a sixth title at this level.

Defending champion, Merrilees is the top seed once again but with 30 players in the competition, he’ll have to keep his wits about him should he want a repeat of the success.

Matthew Carder, the only other man to have won the men’s singles title since 2014, is seeded second and receives a bye, up against either former champion Craig Goddard or Matthew Duguid in the second round.

There could also be a sibling meeting in the form of Matthew and third/fourth seed Christopher Grimley, with the pair needing to get to the quarter-finals to take their place on opposing sides of the net.

Meanwhile, the mixed doubles will see the top seeds and reigning champions Gilmour and Patrick MacHugh coming up against siblings Mark and Maria Leith while Ciara and Ben Torrance will also be in action in the mixed doubles – this time against each other in the first round.

Ciara and Adam Hall are second seeds for the Nationals, after both reached the semi-finals with different partners last year, while Ben is alongside Sarah Findlay.

There is also a tough draw for Ciar and Catlin Pringle, who will need to upset third/fourth seeds Martin Campbell and MacPherson if they are to reach the second round in Perth.

And the strength in depth of the men’s and mixed doubles field is something Badminton Scotland Chief Executive Anne Smillie is particularly excited about heading into the tournament.

“The National Championships are always a time to celebrate the sport of badminton in Scotland and this year is no exception,” she said.

“It’s fantastic to see such strong fields once again this year, especially in the men’s and mixed doubles events where I’m sure the titles will be hotly contested.

“After the success of the TOTAL BWF World Championships and the Scottish Open Grand Prix last year, this will be another chance for badminton fans to see their heroes on home courts before they wear the saltire with pride at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

Into the men’s doubles and tournament favourites Hall and Alex Dunn will automatically take their place in round two, as will second seeds Campbell and MacHugh.

But progression beyond there will not be as easy as the seedings may suggest for Campbell and MacHugh and they could face Christopher and Matthew Grimley in the second round, who are in red hot form having won the Swedish Junior last weekend.

Finally, women’s doubles top seeds MacPherson and Eleanor O’Donnell, who won their first senior international title in Iceland last weekend, will open their campaign against Middleton and Sarah Sidebottom.

Second seeds Rebekka Findlay and Caitlin Pringle are up against Holly Newall and Ciara Torrance meanwhile, with Newall a semi-finalist in both the singles and doubles 12 months ago.

Badminton Scotland President Ian Campbell said: “The Scottish Nationals are the highlight of the home badminton calendar and allow all Scotland's best players to compete against each other.

“In previous years we have had some incredibly competitive games and I am sure this year will be no different.

“I look forward to a weekend of high class thrilling badminton.”

The Yonex Scottish National Championships are being staged at Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth courtesy of Perth and Kinross Council. Badminton Scotland are also indebted to Yonex UK, Live Active Leisure, Perth Common Good Fund, the management and staff at Bell’s Sports Centre, and Badminton Scotland Court Officials and volunteers.

The competition will get underway on Friday at 17.00hrs, with finals to be contested on Sunday, February 4.

Draws will be online at www.badmintonscotland.org.uk by Wednesday 31 January.

Tickets can be purchased on the door at Bell’s Sports Centre or in advance from Badminton Scotland.

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