Posted on 16th January 2023
By RJ Mitchell
BOB BLAIR is hoping that the experience gleaned from last week’s Malaysian Open can prove crucial to an improved Scottish showing in India when the Yonex Sunrise Indian Open gets underway tomorrow.
The extreme air conditioning in the Axiata Arena, Kuala Lumpur meant that depending on which end the players were situated they could enjoy a gale force backing or end up gone with the wind such was the severity of the internal ventilation system.
As Blair admits this meant that victory hinged more on adapting to the extreme conditions than bringing the A-game as the Scots came up short in all four first round matches in the Malaysian capital.
All of which has left the Scotland coach hoping, you might say, for a fair wind, when his charges take to the court in New Delhi’s K.D Jadhav Indoor Hall this week.
Blair said: “It’s hard to say if the conditions will be as severe in India as in any case they can change from day to day, but this is just a big part of the game at this level and it’s vital to make as much use as possible of your practise sessions in this respect.
“The players have to learn how to take advantage of the conditions and really learn to work them in their favour.
“Some sides you play at are so severe that it is just very unlikely you will win the set you have at that end, so it is almost like if you win the toss then you must make that count and that is why, just like this week past, you will probably see so many low scores and three set matches.
“Malaysia is renowned as one of the toughest halls you can play at and I’d hope that India will be a step down from that and I’m sure the players will benefit but also from the experience of having played in such demanding and challenging conditions in Malaysia.
“That will only stand them in good stead.”
For Kirsty Gilmour there was a disappointing straight set defeat at the hands of Thailand’s World No.10 ranked Busanan Ongbamrungphan but Blair is hoping for a more positive outcome in India this week for the Scottish No.1.
He said: “As I mentioned it was just a very difficult hall in terms of the air conditioning which meant a huge drift from one side to the other.
“So Kirsty started on the good side but didn’t start that well and really she had to win on that side because of the air con issues, the other side was extremely difficult and you couldn’t really lift the shuttle at all.
“That slow start meant she didn’t win on the side she had to win and that meant Kirsty was right up against it against a world class opponent who played the hall well and has been playing these conditions over there for many years.
“The slow start cost Kirsty, if anything it would have been better if she’d started on the bad side to play herself in but the Thai girl did start well and that was the difference.
“Really as I said in some of these halls it is more important how you play the conditions than your opponent.
“This week Kirsty will go into her match with Yvonne Li (Germany) in India as favourite, Yvonne is a good player and a bit younger than Kirsty with less experience although she is strong and a fighter with a physical style of play but if Kirsty plays well she can win that match.”
In the mixed doubles there was an agonising 21-19 final set defeat for Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson against the No.5 seeds Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet and Blair is confident that will have battle hardened the duo as they prepare to meet Korean opposition this time around.
He said: “It was a very good game and they played at a really high level and also managed the conditions well against very good opponents who were seeded No.5
“But at 19 in the third the confidence and experience of the Hong Kong pairing came through and they played two very good points, really they took some chances and it paid off.
“That said it was nice to see our players competing at that level and if they continue at that level they will get the wins.
“In India this week Adam and Julie have Korean opposition and that is an interesting one as there are a lot of young Koreans and this is one of these pairs and it’s almost a new generation.
“But they have had a couple of good results in Malaysia although looking at their style, if our guys perform to the same level as last week they will give themselves a good chance to win.”
In the women’s doubles, there was to be more final set heartbreak for Julie and partner Ciara Torrance as the bitter taste of defeat was served on a cruel net cord: “Julie and Ciara played really well and then at match – point 20-19 one of the Singapore players got a net cord from the back of the court and that was that.
“So, it was a tough week for Julie especially, who has now played two really good matches but couldn’t get over the line in either of them.
“In India this week it is a young Japanese pair the girls face and they are very strong, solid, and powerful but Julie and Ciara played at a level in Malaysia that will get them wins against people of that quality.
“There next step is to produce their best when it really matters but against the Japanese we are not favourites.”
When it came to the men’s doubles, Blair, the former World No.4 ranked doubles ace, is looking for better from Adam Hall and Alex Dunn and he said: “The boys have the same Taipei pairing they lost too in Malaysia and they weren’t at their best for that one losing in straight sets, so we will see how they improve on that after getting a look at the Taipei pairing’s cards.
“Again experience of the hall cost them but Adam and Alex were almost bullied a little bit with the strength of their opponents and the fact they just didn’t play to the best of their capabilities. So hopefully they can go out and give them a real fright.
“The Grimley twins will be in this week but we won’t know who they will have until later today after the manager’s meeting.
“The initial draw is done three weeks prior to the tournament and then at the manager’s meeting it is redrawn to work around the withdrawals when it is finalised.”