By RJ Mitchell
It’s the perfect question for any badminton quiz: ‘Who won the Scottish Women’s Championship twice in one year?’
The answer of course is Rachel Sugden and the Scotland No.2 will be leading a powerful Scottish challenge at this week’s 2022 Welsh Open when she begins her campaign against Sweden’s Rebecca Kuhl at the Sport Wales National Centre tomorrow morning.
The 21-year-old has been working hard under coaches David Gilmour and Ingo Kindervater on improving key parts of her game and after a promising showing at last week’s 2022 Irish Open is determined to go deep in Cardiff.
Rachel will also be partnering Ciar Pringle against Scotland No.1 man Callum Smith and his English partner Holly Williams and there is no doubt that Rachel, who is seeded in six in the qualifying draw, is determined to bring the curtain down on her competitive calendar year with another promising run which will bode well for 2023.
The Scotland No.2 said: “I am seeded in qualifying at No.6 and my main goal is to get through qualifying again and I have two tough but winnable matches in the qualifying with the Swedish girl up first and the target is to produce a good level in both and make the main draw.
“The main draw is packed full of good players and it would give me really good experience to be in there and competing against some of them.
“In terms of the Irish Open I was really happy to get through the first two matches as they were tough three-setters and at the moment all of these tournaments are very high standard due to all of the Asian players who are competing in them.
“When I played the girl from Denmark, Frederricke Lund, it was a good match but I was a bit jaded after the two previous matches and I made a few more mistakes than her and really she was very solid.
“Also it had been two matches the night before and then the Danish girl the next day and the first two matches were 45 minutes and then over 50, so they were two long tough matches.
“All of that is something I am still getting used to as I haven’t had a proper run of playing on the circuit as yet as when I came out of the juniors Covid was just hitting and so I missed a year there.
“Then I was injured with a foot problem which was basically a small bone in my foot, the sesamoid bone, becoming inflamed and it cost me six-months and from September to December I couldn’t do anything.
“So that has been a big chunk out of a year and it has had a knock-on effect to a certain extent.”
Yet while injury, as with all athletes, is a frustration, Rachel still found time to make history as she explained: “I actually won the Scottish twice this year as we missed a year due to Covid and so held it twice in 2022.
“To be honest I struggled a bit during the tournament and was not able to play at my best level so I was very happy I was able to come through the tournament and win these matches as it was all a bit of a mental battle for me.
“When you are growing up and you are playing your way through the junior age groups it is something that you dream of achieving to one day become Scottish champion so to do it twice in one year is something I am very proud of.
“The only wee disappointment was that I didn’t get the chance to play Kirsty (Gilmour) as I have never managed to do that in any of the senior nationals I have entered, she is the best player in Scotland and it would have been great to play her in the nationals.
“So that is the one thing that was maybe missing from it.”
There was to be one further big disappointment for Rachel when she failed by one position to make the cut for the Commonwealth Games but that setback has only served to fuel her fire to make improvements in key areas of her game.
The Scottish National champion revealed: “I have made some improvements to my game and I felt like they helped me through the first two matches in Ireland and afterwards I spoke with my two coaches David Gilmour and Ingo Kindervater which was very important.
“I have been working on my consistency in the higher paced rallies and that has been a very good block to have behind me, going back to the summer when I had lost a few matches which I could have done better in due to unforced errors, which was something we decided to put a bit of work into and it has definitely improved my level.
“Also on my shot selection, being more of an attacking player, I needed to be more confident in both my speed and my basic game.
“Really for me it was more of a mental thing as I had a wee problem that in my head if I made a few mistakes I would panic and worry about making more rather than in backing myself and knowing I can produce a 20-shot rally and not make any mistakes.
“So it was more of the mental side of things and clearly shot selection then comes into it in terms of not going for too much.”
When it comes to her mixed doubles participation with Ciar Pringle this week, Rachel admitted the emphasis was on enjoyment: “I train for singles but I do also play doubles for a bit of fun and I’m playing mixed doubles at the Welsh with Ciar and looking forward to that.,” she said.
Rachel continued: “Obviously we have a really tough draw in qualifying in playing Callum Smith and his partner Holly Williams the English player and that will be quite funny but that is a tough one.
“As I don’t train for mixed I am not as confident as I am when I go on for a singles game but I will just go on court and give it my best.
“The Welsh is my last tournament of the year and I just want to go out on as positive a note as I can, I just turned 21 on the 13th of November so hopefully all goes well and it would be good to mark that with a strong performance in Cardiff.”
Also, in the ladies singles Scotland No.4 Toni Woods will open against England’s Emily Carpenter while fifth ranked Scot Sophie Ford takes on Anne Hubscher also of England.
Find out more
Welsh Open schedule (Tournament Software)