Posted on 6th December 2022
By RJ Mitchell
SARAH SIDEBOTTOM believes that last week’s Welsh Open has provided a strong platform for Team Scotland ahead of next week’s European Mixed Team Championships Qualifiers at The National Badminton Academy, Scotstoun.
The doubles specialist made the second round of the main draw mixed doubles with partner Jack MacGregor before losing in two tight games against the highly rated Danish pair of Mathias Thyrri and Amalie Magelund.
In the Women’s Doubles Sarah and partner Rachel Andrew claimed a fine win against the English pairing of Henry and Hubscher before losing another close straight game encounter to the Swedish Slovenian pairing of Malena Norrman and Lia Salehar.
But while Sarah has no doubt that the white hot intensity of competitive tournament play has been the perfect preparation for the EMTCQ’s, she also revealed that she believes the recent engagement by Scottish Badminton of renowned psychologist Dr Rachel Hanson can provide a crucial edge when the business end of a match is reached.
The Scotland No.3 ranked mixed doubles player said: “There were definitely positives we could take from the Welsh and I think there is a strong platform there to build on for the Europeans next week.
“Yes it was an up and down one and in both the women’s doubles and the mixed there were good moments and some that weren’t what we would have hoped for but that is tournament play for you.
“That said I think when you look back on any tournament you will always find things you could have done better.
“In the Mixed Doubles we knew the Danish pair were really good and then when we found ourselves at 19-19 in the second game with a pairing of their quality it was a bit like: ‘Wow!’ and that was a little bit frustrating as we did get that little bit nervous and that didn’t help us.
“To be honest I think that mentally we went on court lacking a bit of confidence and that is something that we will have to learn from and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Self-belief is so important in sport and I definitely think if we’d had more of that it could have made a difference.
“It was similar in the Women’s Doubles in that with that bit more belief against the top Europeans we can really hurt them and it is a case of going into these matches with no doubts in your head.
“I don’t usually get to play these top pairs and usually play IS (International Series) or IC (International Challenge) but in this IC there was a pairing ranked No.7 in the world playing the mixed and they don’t usually play this level of tournament.
“While the Danish pairing is a new partnership they are two of the top Danes individually and I’m sure it won’t be long before their world ranking is soaring.
“But as I said we got through a lot of good quality match-play and that will stand Rachel, Jack and myself in good stead for the Europeans for sure.”
Sarah’s experience in Cardiff has also meant that she has had a rethink on the value of Sports Psychology and the edge it can give her when matches come down to the wire: “I have only had one session with Doctor Hanson and the first time I spoke to her I didn’t feel there was that much I could learn from her.
“That has definitely changed after Wales and I really believe Dr Hanson could be a real asset to all of us in the national set up. I am definitely looking forward to our next session and learning as much from it as possible.”
When it comes to next week’s EMTCQ’s, which start for Scotland with an opening encounter against Luxembourg on Thursday December 15, Sarah has no doubt that home advantage can make the difference between success and failure in the bid to qualify for next years’ finals in France.
The Scotland No.5 ranked Women’s Doubles international said: “It is super important we make France next year. I think even although we have some older players who are doing well now they are actually in reality still pretty young and we have even younger players coming through.
“So I think we are more than capable of qualifying and if we do qualify we can really do some damage.
“I was really disappointed when I heard the Scottish Open wasn’t being played this year as I didn’t get to play it last year, I had been really up for it so the fact we have these European Qualifiers at Scotstoun is a real bonus.
“I don’t know when the last time was that my parents got to sit down and watch me play so especially at this time of the year that is a nice thing for them and everyone else’s friends and family to get to do.
“Obviously I can’t take it for granted I will play but it will just be really nice to be part of the team. Scotland love team events as we are so close as a team and we are all good friends and spend time with each other out of training. So we are extra close as a group and the fact this is at home just takes it to a whole new level.
Looking forward to our two Subgroup One clashes with Luxembourg and the Czech Republic the Scotland international admits only our best will be good enough to qualify for France: “Luxembourg are a bit of an unknown quantity but it doesn’t matter to us who we play we will go in there with the same attitude which we would have if we were playing Denmark.
“Also given it is the opening tie of the qualifiers it is very important to produce a positive performance and really set our standards for the rest of the week.
“The Czech Republic have a very strong men’s singles player in Jan Louda, who made the final of the Welsh Open last week so he will be tough opposition in the singles.
“Last year Rachel and I played the women’s doubles partnership and they were very experienced, that said I think they may have retired now but the Czechs will be tough, of that there is no doubt.”
Next week’s EMTCQ’s will be sponsored by VICTOR and NCS and with the former also being Sarah’s sponsors she is delighted the renowned German Badminton brand are backing Scottish Badminton with their patronage.
The 22- year-old said: “VICTOR have been a massive help for me in terms of supporting me for my tournaments and their communication has been brilliant, they are always looking to help me whenever they can and they are my best partnership so far in terms of sponsorship.
“They are also sponsoring the European qualifiers and I hope this is just the start of them getting involved. I know how passionate they are about supporting Scottish Badminton and they are behind the team the whole way.
“On a personal note I am delighted to continue my career with them and also see how their support of Scottish Badminton develops, that is all potentially very exciting.”