Posted on 18th August 2023
By RJ Mitchell
THREE days before the Total Energies BWF World Championships Robert Blair has admitted that a successful campaign in Copenhagen can be “career changing.”
Success at the sports now annual contest for global supremacy is something that the Scotland coach knows all about having made the final of the men’s doubles back in 2006, when Blair and partner Anthony Clark made an impressive run that just fell short of the ultimate glory.
But as he assessed the hopes and dreams of the strong Scottish contingent who will form part of the 367 player entry from 54 countries at Copenhagen’s Royal Arena, Blair was in no mood to play down their importance, given that this year’s championships also carry the maximum qualifying points haul for next year’s Paris Olympics.
Projecting forward to next week’s much anticipated action Blair said: “This is a huge event for everyone and it can be career changing for a player or players who have a fantastic week and of course they can win medals.
“Last year Alex (Dunn) Adam (Hall) were in the last 16 (men’s doubles) so everyone knows if they play to their best form then they have the capability to beat the top players as they have done before.
“So the goal is not just about the performances but can they achieve these medals, although that is the short term goal, as there is the Olympic qualifying process as well.
“This is the biggest amount of points on offer this year in terms of Olympic qualification so there is that extra importance.
“So one week can make a huge difference to your career and the players are aware of that and ready to embrace it.”
In the women’s singles, Scottish No.1 Kirsty Gilmour will face Belgium’s World No.41 Lianne Tan with the prospect of a second round meeting against Malysia’s No.12 seeded Beiwen Zhang – the ominous shadow of World No.1 and top seed An Se Young lurks for a projected third round clash.
In the women’s doubles, Scottish champions and World No.35 pairing Julie MacPherson & Ciara Torrance face Australia’s World No.57 ranked Kaitlyn Ea & Gronya Somerville with 10th seeded Malaysians Pearly Tan & Thinaah Muralitharan lying in wait.
The mixed doubles has pitted our World No.40 ranked pairing of Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson against India’s World No.33 rated Rohan Kapoor & Reddy Sikki with sixth seeded Kim Won Ho and Jeong Na Eun from Korea ready to battle it out with the winners.
When it comes to the Olympic qualification aspect, the Scotland coach has no doubt this has also added an extra dimension of focus for our players ahead of the action in the Danish capital.
Robert said: “Being part of the Olympic qualifying process and obviously also the fact it is a World Championships it is a priority for us and the players.
“It’s also a great chance to perform and show that you can match the top players and ideally get into the frame for a medal.
“The focus has gone up, they have all played a world championship already, but the players really want to produce their best and perform at their best and that has been noticeable.”
Scotland has two pairs competing in the men’s doubles with Scottish champions and World No.24 ranked Alex Dunn and Adam Hall drawing Canadians Dong Adam and Nyl Yakura in the first round with 11th seeded Danes Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen awaiting the winners.
Meanwhile our World No.44 ranked pairing of Chris and Matthew Grimley also face Canadian opposition when they contest against 45th ranked Kevin Lee and Ty Alexander Lyndeman with 15th seeded Lu Ching Lao and Yang Po Han from Taipei ready to meet the winners.
When it comes to any advantage our players may gain for competing in a northern European host country, Robert said: “It is always nice to have it in Europe as travel can be difficult if you are going to Asia, so a short flight is nice whereas the Asian players this time have the long haul flight and eating food they are not used to.
“Obviously Denmark is closer to our culture and similar in many ways to Scotland so it’s easier to adapt but at the end of the day everyone is used to travelling so I don’t see that having a big impact.
“All of the big halls are much of a muchness so there is always an air flow drift and you just have make sure your game plan is prepared for that.”
As he took an overview position on the draw sheets, Robert was satisfied that there is a real chance of Scottish success in Scandinavia next week and he said: “We have the same preparation for every event but the build-up has been longer for this event with six or seven weeks and that isn’t always the case so hopefully physically and mentally the players are in a better position.
“But we know the draws and it is the same sort of processes in terms of tactics, there can be more pressure as it is the World Championships but we have worked to put the players in the best frame of mind which will allow them to produce their strongest performances.
“So essentially we have decent draws for the players and all our first round matches are winnable and then even the seeded players that await provide good opportunities for us to go forward.
“So it is about performing at our best and if we can do that then we can achieve some good quality wins and the challenge for our players is to do that and back it up where possible.”