By RJ Mitchell
ISHBEL McCallister is hoping that her glory run with Katrina Chan to the semi-final of the inaugural All England Junior women’s doubles will help take her game to the next level.
The Scots confounded the seedings by stunning Spanish third seeds Macarena Izquierdo and Carmen Maria Jimenez in the quarter-finals before losing out to the eventual winners Jackie Dent and Ella Lin in the semis.
As the Boroughmuir High School pupil reflected on her bronze medal and partnership with Katrina, which has already harvested a Scottish Under-17 title and under-19 runners-up berth, Ishbel has no doubt the experience of elite junior competition at Birmingham University’s state of the art badminton centre will only propel her game forward.
The 16-year-old said: “We were hoping for a quarter-final and if we really hit form maybe a semi but really that was beyond our expectations.
“The semi was against Jackie Dent from Canada and Ella Lin from the USA and we went down 21-10, 21-7 and I think to be honest we were a bit nervous but also the other girls were really good and obviously although they were second seeds they went on to win the tournament.
“Jackie also won the singles and Ella won the mixed so that shows the quality we were up against and congratulations to them they deserved the win.
“But I’d say they were also a standard above what we had been used to playing and that combined with the fact it was a big crowd at Birmingham Uni was tough but also a great experience for us.
“It is definitely one we will learn from and hopefully build on.”
Yet the young Scots charge to the last four was far from a foregone conclusion as Ishbel explained: “So it was a round of 32, 16, quarters and then semi. We started with a win against a German pairing (21-12, 21-16,) then beat a pair from Mauritius (21-14, 21-14) and that was an enjoyable match against players from a different part of the world.
“But the quarter-finals was the big match and we faced the Spanish third seeds Izquierdo and Jimenez and obviously they were favourites.
“But we managed to get through 21-18 and 21-17 and I think this came down to our ability to push our attack and move them around in the mid-court, but we also stayed calm and kept to our game plan.
“So that really all came together and although both sets were tight we stuck at it and it was a great feeling to make the semis and probably our biggest win as a pair.
“Again great experience and plenty to learn from, as was the whole tournament.”
When it came to her partnership with Katrina Chan, who also made the third round of the women’s singles, Ishbel has no doubt they are developing as a pairing nicely.
The Scotland junior internationalist said: “Katrina and I started playing together at under-13 level and we have developed a good understanding of each other’s games and just work well around each other.
“We prefer to play with me attacking at the net and Katrina at the back and that is the set up we feel gets the best out of us.”
Ishbel has recently joined the Scottish National Senior squad and has no doubt her game is blossoming as a result: “I do a lot of net training and covering the line with Robert Blair and Ingo (Kindervater) in the National Squad sessions and my game has definitely come on and helped me develop a completely different understanding of the technical aspect of how to hit certain shots,” said the All England Junior bronze medallist.
Ishbel continued: “Also I appreciate the movement aspects and although this extra information has been a lot to take in it is very helpful.
“I have only been training for a few weeks with the squad but I feel like there is already a difference.
“So I have seven badminton sessions and two gym sessions at the moment but when I go back to school I will drop down to three seniors squad sessions one SDS (Scottish Development Squad) session and two gym sessions per week.
“But we have plenty to work on in terms of mid court and smashing from the back and the improvements already are pretty exciting.”
When it comes to her role models and ambitions Ishbel is impressively clear and she said: “Julie (MacPherson) and Ciara (Torrance) are really good and I love to watch their doubles and I’d really like to emulate them by becoming a full-time senior player and going to the Commonwealths and hopefully an Olympics.
“I will be watching the worlds later this month and I’m also hoping to play at the Scottish Open as that would be a tremendous experience.
“But all of that is possible because of my family and all of the coaches, everyone has been really supportive and we are lucky to have such a great set-up.”
Well done Ishbel, we can’t wait to see what’s next! Keep up the hard work.