Posted on 15th February 2023
By RJ Mitchell
JAMES ROBERTSON has described his match with World No.1 Viktor Axelsen as an “absolute privilege.”
The Scottish No.3 ranked Men’s Singles player was drafted in as a late illness replacement for national champion Callum Smith at the weekend then handed the daunting task of facing the great Dane when Team Scotland faced the European Champions at the Complexe Sportif Regional earlier today.
But Robertson stuck firmly to his guns as he turned in a determined performance before going down 21-7, 21-8 and has now vowed to use his encounter with the imperious Axelsen as a platform to securing his first win in tomorrow’s final Group A match with Ukraine.
The 23-year-old said: “I was just really excited to go on court and play someone who is currently the best in the sport in singles and it was an absolute privilege.
“I haven’t watched it back yet but I do feel reasonably happy with my performance and the things I can take away and work on.
“I showed some good stuff in my attack and also defensively and that was pleasing, while tactically I felt I got it pretty good.
“If I had to be critical I would say my defence could be better and when you are playing someone like Viktor it is just so tough to get the shuttle behind . He is so good at stepping up and cutting out these angles so I definitely need replicate that in my game.
“I and the other singles guys are playing at the challenges level and at the moment it is quite rare to be able to play the very top players so for me to take on Viktor (Axelsen) at the Europeans it was just an absolute pleasure and one I won’t forget.”
When it came to what impressed James most about the mighty Dane it is clear that it was a hugely positive learning experience for the Dumfries ace.
Robertson reflected: “Given he is a taller guy it is very impressive how he positions himself around the court and it is really hard to put him in low positions and hit the shuttle through him.
“You know going on court that you don’t want to give him too many lifts as he gets really good angles.
“That said it is not just his power but the way he makes you cover all of the court that is really impressive and the level he maintains was very high for the whole duration of the match – there was no drop off.
“He also has great hands and just all round he was very hard to beat.”
Earlier this morning in the Women’s Singles Kirsty Gilmour was given the opportunity to get the Scots off to the best possible start and duly took it in a tense encounter with Line Christensen that went to a third and final set.
Despite conceding the opening stanza 21-14 the Scotland No.1 gradually started to find greater accuracy and as her game tightened up in the second episode Kirsty overturned a 7-12 deficit to claim parity 21-18.
The third set was all about pressure and with the Scot producing a virtually flawless finale Christensen’s game began to creak and the Danish international offered up four consecutive errors which saw Kirsty ease home 21-12 after 52-minutes of play.
After Robertson’s gutsy defeat at the hands of Axelsen the tie was now poised at one-a-piece with the crucial Women’s Doubles encounter between Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance and Denmark’s Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen taking to the court.
In an opening set with very little in it, the Danes edged the bigger points to secure a 21-15 success. With the Scots mounting a determined bid to reclaim parity a furious rally, which engaged all parts of the court, seemed to prove crucial in producing a decisive 18-12 lead for the Danish pairing.
Ultimately that proved just enough to get them over the line, despite a determined last-ditch Scottish fight-back, 21-16.
Next up came the Men’s Doubles with Christopher Grimley partnering Alex Dunn against Kim Astrup and Fredrik Sogaard.
While there was very little in it the Danes clinched the first set 21-17 before closing out the second in efficient fashion 21-12 to secure an overall victory for the reigning European champions.
In the final encounter the Mixed Doubles saw Adam Hall, rested from the Men’s Doubles, partnering Julie MacPherson against Mathias Christiansen and Amalie Magelund and although the Scots fought valiantly they were beaten 21-11, 21-16 in 28-minutes.
With the European champions securing an overall 4-1 victory by nine games to two that means that Scotland now sit third in Group A with five games won and 17 lost compared to Ukraine, in fourth position, posting two games won and 19 conceded.
For his part, Robertson can’t wait to get back out on court for tomorrow’s Group A finale and revealed there is a palpable determination in the Scottish camp to claim that first victory.
He said: “Against Ukraine I am really hoping to build on my game with Viktor Axelsen. For me when you play top players it can really help to bring out the best in your game so I am hoping to take it up a level.
“I also really want to get a point for the team tomorrow and there is a real determination to get that first win within our group.
“Especially with a lot of the games being close over the first two days , if we could have changed one or two things over the last two matches it would be a different picture, so I am excited to come out against Ukraine and really try and get that win on the board and I know everyone else is as well.”