Posted on 29th March 2023
By RJ Mitchell
KIRSTY GILMOUR is hoping that warm memories from her European Championship silver medal campaign last year can inspire a successful revenge mission in Madrid this week.
The Scotland No.1 has been drawn against the no.5 seeded Gregoria Mariska Tunjung in the Madrid Spanish Masters less than a week after losing to her over two taught sets in the quarter-finals of the Yonex Swiss Open.
Yet a year back Kirsty proved remarkably adaptable as she adjusted to the demanding high altitude conditions of the Spanish capital to make the European Championships final where the multiple former world champion Carolina Marin proved just too strong.
But now as she bids to go again against the World No.12 at the Polideportivo Municipal Gallur, Kirsty is determined to use that experience to best advantage against an opponent she rates very highly.
The Scotland international admitted: “I really think where women’s singles is physically it is the toughest it has ever been and the depth in each field is just so much stronger and drawing someone of Gregoria’s quality again in the first round in Madrid underlines that.
“Last week in Switzerland it took me a while to get used to her hitting rhythm, she is just incredibly skilful and I’m not really sure that comes across when you are watching her play as a spectator but she just gives you so little rhythm.
“Normally there is a nice back and forth rhythm to a match but Gregoria just annihilates any of that with her skills and you struggle to get a hold on her hitting points and that made it very tricky.
“Saying that I managed to get a grasp of it in the second set (19-21) and got a little lead but that required almost perfect play and that was difficult to maintain.
“Her hold is very destructive and means you can’t shape up for one shot and that makes it very difficult. You are always trying to weigh up your options, shut down certain areas of the court and cover the most likely areas.
“That meant I had to use my physicality quite a lot to build up the rallies. But in terms of the things I set out to do I did them pretty well but just lacked that little bit of extra patience that was needed. So I am clear with what I need to do to make the difference this time around.”
When it came to how she prepares for each individual opponent, Kirsty offered an interesting insight into her pre-match processes: “First of all I never put the tactics first, I focus on myself and if I am playing at top speed and committing to all my shots then I am a very difficult person to deal with and I have to have full confidence in that.
“The cherry on top of all that is picking up on my opponents habits, so I watch videos and scan for their favourite shot, tendencies with the service situation, area of weakness and then make my plan around that.
“That is a process that has served me well and works effectively for me.”
With Madrid situated on an undulating plateau of sand and clay known as the Meseta, which is derived from the Spanish word mesa or table and perched at an elevation of 2,229 feet or 646 metres, the Spanish capital is the second highest capital in Europe.
As Kirsty, who arrived in Madrid on Sunday, revealed the bottom line is all of that means the shuttlecocks will fly with real velocity this week: “It’s the hall that we played the individual Europeans in last year and no one told me then that Madrid is at altitude and the shuttles are outrageously fast because of that!
“That is why this week I was keen to get there early as it was very important to get a hit in the hall and do some court work with the Grimley twins who arrived yesterday.
“I won a silver at the Europeans last year and every single match required a lot of physicality because of the demands of the hall, so it was a very hard fought silver medal believe me! But I am really happy to be back in Madrid as it’s a lovely city.
“Another big plus for me is weighing up my coffee options as the coffee scene in Madrid is outrageously good and that is a highlight for me of visiting Madrid.”
As she took an overview of the women’s game Kirsty admitted that the current generation of elite players is the highest quality she has known and she said: “So, we have four Thai players in the top-20, two or three Japanese, two Koreans, four Chinese, one Indonesian and one Scot fae Bothwell!
“On a personal level it is good that I have shown I can be a top-20 player in different generations of the game but this generation of women’s singles is by far the toughest I have ever experienced.
“There are just no easy draws now in any tournament. A 1000 event is just a one to 32 of the top 32 players in the world and the quality is now higher than it has ever been.
“So in that respect it was nice to play someone new at the Swiss last week as Kisona (Selvaduray) has had an injury problem and she offered different challenges but I had a game plan in mind and I executed it pretty well and the same thing with Yvonne (Li) who I had played as recently as India.
“But again I executed the plan pretty well and that is something I am very pleased with as I have spent quite a bit of time on tactical discipline recently and feel like I am really getting there.
“Playing Gregoria again this week in Madrid will provide a further test of that.”