AIG FZ FORZA Irish Open 2023 Preview: Rachel Sugden

By RJ Mitchell

RACHEL SUGDEN is determined to regain some vital momentum at the AIG FZ Forza Irish Open this week in Dublin.

After impressive quarter-final runs at the Scottish and Czech Opens, Rachel lost out in the first round at the FZ Forza Norwegian International to England’s Miu Lin Ngan 20-22, 5-21 in Sandefjord last week.

But with this week’s trip to the Irish capital followed by the Yonex Welsh International Championships and then the European Women’s Team Championship qualifiers in Azerbaijan at the beginning of December, Rachel is determined to bounce back at the Irish National Indoor Arena.

The Scotland No.2 women’s singles player said: “It’s the Irish then the Welsh before the Europeans and what is important to me is regaining the momentum I had at the Czech Open.

“What was disappointing about Norway was that I made the quarters in Prague a couple of weeks back (beating the No.1 seed Fredericke Lund on the way through) which was very pleasing and built on my performances at the Scottish Open.

“But the Norwegian I was disappointed with my level and I just need to put it behind me and focus on the Irish this week.

“Really I gave away far too many easy points against Miu and just didn’t make her work hard enough, whereas in the Czech and the Scottish I really built the rallies to give myself the platform to attack but that didn’t happen this time.

“So I need to fix that before the Irish.”

Rachel is also looking forward to having coach David Gilmour’s calming influence and tactical wisdom at courtside for this week’s action.

As she shared: “I had a few good performances at the Irish and Welsh last year where I came through qualifying for both and this time I am in the main draw as I have enough ranking points to have earned that and that is nice as it is tough to come through qualifiers.

“But what is really pleasing is that I will have David (Gilmour) at the back of my court. His presence and advice makes so much difference to me.

“Unfortunately he doesn’t get to travel with us so much but when we are in the UK he travels with us and that is really good and something that I hope will make a difference this week.”

With her opening match coming on Thursday against France’s No.6 seeded Leonice Huet, Rachel faces a busy few days as she looks to cram in video review from last week, tactical tinkering and homework on her opposition this time around.

Reflecting on all of this she said: “I came back on Sunday and it’s training today, Tuesday and Wednesday before flying out to Dublin on Wednesday night.

“So I will watch the Norway match back and really look at it in depth before focussing on the first round of the Irish against Leonice.

“I’ve played her once before but that was a long time ago, maybe three years back, and lost in two fairly tight sets.

“Leonice is a strong player who has been playing well recently, physically she is powerful and fit, so it will be a tough match but what will be important for me is to bring my attacking game to the fore and cut out the errors.”

Looking beyond her individual commitments, Rachel is already gearing up to the European Team qualifiers and determined to do everything she can to help rekindle memories of the Scots epic bronze medal run three years back.

That success saw the Scottish Ladies defeat second seeded Russia before losing out 3-1 to Germany in the semi-final stages and Rachel believes that experience and the tight-knit team spirit within the camp can prove crucial this time around.

The two-time Scottish women’s singles champion said: “There are definitely some challenging players in the teams especially Estonia and Azerbaijan the hosts, and we will need to produce a decent level of badminton to come through the qualies but we have a strong team and we believe we can do it.

“I think it is really important to qualify for the Europeans, the girls all really want to do well. A few years ago we came through the qualifiers in France and won a bronze medal and that was a bit of a career high for me certainly and a few of the other girls and we would love to replicate that and medal again.

“We know it will be tough but we have got to make that experience count.”

There is a strong Scottish entry in all five disciplines this week in Dublin with the Grimley twins seeded No.2 for the men’s doubles and no less than six Scottish men’s singles players attempting to qualify for the main draw.

While in the Women’s Doubles Rachel Andrew and Sarah Sidebottom lead a three pair contingent and in the Mixed Doubles Adam Pringle and Rachel Andrew look to repeat their recent superb run to the semi-finals of the Hungarian Open.

Find out more