Alfie’s High Hopes And Great Expectations

By RJ Mitchell

He is one of the most prodigious young talents in Scottish badminton and Alfie Martin admits that his sporting education is in safe hands as his increasingly impressive youthful career continues to develop apace.

Despite not turning 14 until next month, Alfie has already claimed a bronze medal in the Under-15s at the Spanish Junior Open, struck silver at the Gold Star Under-15s in Milton Keynes last month, while the Lanarkshire lad also claimed an impressive hat-trick at the Under-15 Nationals in December.

First introduced to our sport by his great-grandfather Archie when he was just a seven-years-old at the East Kilbride Sports Centre, by age 10 Alfie joined the Lanarkshire Badminton Academy where he was developed by the shrewd promptings of coach Robert Dunn.

Just over three years later his rise to become one of the most highly-rated talents in the European Under-15 category has been supersonic.

Strong Foundations:

Yet despite his recent successes on the continent, Alfie remained impressively grounded as he admitted he is only at the beginning of his learning curve: “I really enjoyed working with Robert (Dunn) as he was a nice guy and he made it good fun and the badminton at the Lanarkshire Academy was at a higher level than your average club and a lot more technically based.

“Since then I have been working with Craig Robertson and David Gilmour has also been great. Craig works with me at the School of Sport and he has been brilliant while I’ve been training with David since I was eight and he has brought me a long way.

“Now I am in the Regional Performance Squad which is out of Scotstoun and Cockburn Centres on Monday and Wednesday nights.

“That is taken by Andy Bowman and Ciar Pringle and I really enjoy that. But to be honest, although I enjoy singles most, I also play both doubles events and basically I just like playing badminton.”

Taking Big Spanish Steps:

Looking back at his bronze medal run in January’s Spanish Open, which saw Alfie dispatch three young Spaniards and a German before he finally lost to a Swiss in the semi, the youngster has no doubt there were invaluable lessons to take on board.

Alfie said: “I had four matches with two in the group, a round of 16 and a quarter-final before losing to a Swiss guy in the semis.

“Really he had a higher tempo throughout the whole match, where although my tempo was good in the first set, and I’d say I was playing at quite a high standard, I just couldn’t sustain it in the second set and he just took control away from me to win it in straight sets.

“I think the other big difference was that he was more experienced in playing the big European junior events and he didn’t maybe feel the pressure the way I did.

“But for me the Spanish was one of the biggest junior tournaments I have played and I felt like, if I could have stayed a bit calmer when the pressure was on, and stuck to my game plan instead of changing things, that could have made a difference.

“For my age I am quite a big guy compared to a lot of the boys I play and if I stick to doing what I do best then not a lot of them are able to keep up with me.”

Silver Service at Gold Star:

Next up For Alfie was the Gold Star event in Milton Keynes where he was competing in both singles and doubles partnering Charlie Junnor.

Looking back at a hugely successful outing in which he claimed silver and bronze medals respectively, the Scotland-under15 singles champion said: “I beat the English No.2 in the semi in three sets, Yixiang Hou, and that is probably among my best wins.

“I stayed calm, learned from the Spanish, and in the third set he was the one who started to tire and make mistakes and I just stuck at it to win 21-14.

“In the final it was Oliver Wu and I won the first 22-20 and then he took the next two 15 and 17 and I just felt like his consistency was better than mine.

“The shuttles were pretty fast and he just adapted to it better than I did and he had the home crowd with him and maybe I buckled under the pressure a bit.

“To be fair he played a better game on the day but I was really pleased to make the final and I feel that, just like the Spanish, I learned a lot.

“Next weekend it is a Gold Star event in Yorkshire and I’m really looking forward to that one. I won’t be seeded for it as I don’t quite have the points at Gold Star level yet but I feel I can take a bit of confidence from Milton Keynes, so we will see how it goes.”

Putting In The Hard Work:

Impressively despite all that success Alfie has no doubt about where his improvements need to come and he explained: “So I’m working on racket carriage with Craig (Robertson). To be fair I carry my racket down at my ankles so I really need to have the racket up and then take the shuttle earlier, that is a big thing for me to improve.

“Also I need to be that bit more consistent. Like I said, at the Spanish Open I felt like that was where I lost the semi, as the Swiss guy was just that bit more consistent, and we are working quite a bit on that.”

National Service:

The Under-15 Quadrangular Championships at Milton Keynes on April 26 are also looming large and Alfie admitted when it comes to what he enjoys most about playing badminton representing his country is at the top of his list.

He said: “So, I really enjoy the team events and I love playing at No.1 for the under-15s and the responsibility of trying to make it 1-0 to Scotland is great.

“It’s also always been a dream of mine to play for Scotland in the seniors and I’ve been lucky enough to hit with Angus (Meldrum) a couple of times, as he was still at the School of Sport when I was just starting and it was really good.

“To play and learn from hitting with someone like Angus was great and he gave me some really helpful tips for my game that I really appreciated.”

Mums The Word:

Alfie was also keen to pay a shout-out to his No.1 fan: “My mum Clare has been a big help! Without her I don’t know how I would make it to all these tournaments.”