By Grania Shankley
Scotland’s European Men’s Team Championships Qualification campaign is well underway in Milton Keynes and up first for Scotland was Ukraine in Group 5, Sub Group 1.
Young talent, Matthew Waring was called upon, taking on Kyrylo Leonov in the men’s singles. We caught up with Matthew on his experience in gaining his first senior National squad cap for Scotland.
“When you were younger, you always wanted to represent your country at senior level and I felt so bad for James (who suffered a training injury), but at a point you’ve got to try and get in a zone where you’re playing, so it took me a bit by surprise, but it was just an honour really”.
With the score balanced at 2-1 in Ukraine’s favour, it was Matthews time to step up, taking on Kyrylo Leonov in the third and final singles match of the day (final score 16-21 21-17 9-21). Reflecting on his match yesterday, Matthew said: “As far as to win the tie it would’ve had to be me who won, obviously I didn’t, but I think I put in a performance that everyone can be proud of hopefully”.
When discussing tactics, preparation and game plans, Matthew told us:
“I’ve been preparing like always. I treat it like any other tournament. I know it’s not, but the more you treat it normally the more it helped me prepare like it was any other event, trying to play my best. There’s a special buzz to everything now that it’s a team competition, you have to give yourself your own motivation and buzz but when you’ve got a team like Scotland it’s quite rowdy so you feed into that almost while you’re playing.”
Matthew gave us insight into the tactics of his senior debut match, saying: “Ingo made up the plan of moving him (Ukraine’s Kyrylo Leonov) around the court quite quickly. He was really awkward to play against and didn’t like getting moved around quickly so that was the original game plan.”
“During the match the plan changed to give him lots of time at the back because he seemed to like the flat game. You might have noticed I was skying it into the roof almost and that was why, to try and give him a lot of time so I could sit back and defend and work it out from there – It helped me settle as well”.
Finally we asked Matthew what it’s like to travel with the squad and be part of this close-knit team, he said: “I’ve always looked up to Adam and Alex, The Grimleys… Plus with Joshua and Callum, I’ve always been in the age group below them. If they’re in the under 19s I’ve been under 15s, so they’re always people I’ve looked up to and tried to base my game around and it’s funny to see that I’m now with them in a team away”.
Matthew is relishing the experience of the trip and says: “I’ve loved it so far. My individual coach Keith, he’s always said to me it’s going to be an amazing experience for you and he was loving it almost more than I was in the lead up to it. I didn’t know what to expect, but so far, it’s lived up to every expectation”.
Scotland v Ukraine Match Round Ups
After his excellent run at the recent Scottish Open and a few tough years overcoming injuries, Josh Apiliga firmly cemented his place in the squad and was first on court against Ukraine’s Danylo Bosnuik. It was a match of two halves with Bosniuk winning the first 14-21. Josh settled into the game in the second narrowly missing out on taking it to three sets with a score of 18-21.
One of the highlights of the day’s action was the return of Callum Smith. Callum looked sharp and full of confidence in the first, winning 21-15, but his opponent Yakovlev didn’t go down easy – fighting back in the second with the tie on a knifes edge, the Ukrainian did enough (20-22) to take it to three sets.
In a match that lasted 50 minutes, Yakovlev carried his momentum into the third and exposed Callum’s lack of competitive games over the last 6 months (due to injury). In a previous interview Callum had told us that in training it is one set against one person and then we swap, so the Welsh International last month was his first time playing a best of three match against an opponent.
Onto first doubles game of the day and we were introduced to a new doubles pairing in Matthew Grimley and Adam Pringle (first senior cap for Scotland) who faced Glib Beketov and Ivan Druzchenjko. While the first set looked tight and hung in the balance at match point, Matt and Adam came out on top 22-20, carrying this momentum into the second to win in straight sets (22-20 21-8).
In the final match of the day, BWF World Ranked no. 30 for Men’s Doubles, Alex Dunn and Adam Hall showed confidence and flair in their performance, comfortably dispatching Yakovlev and Yeromenko in 23 minutes (21-15 21-9).
Scotland now look ahead to Saturday, in a string of must-win matches against Slovakia. Reflecting on the weekend ahead, Matthew told us: “For us singles it’s simply win one game that’s all we need to do and then we’re fine. I think if Josh or Callum does it before me then I’ll relax into it and I’ll be completely fine”.
A place at next year’s finals in Lodz, Poland is in the back of Matthew’s mind as he tells us: “It would be a massive achievement for the whole team, it would mean a lot but we just have to try and not think about that and go out tomorrow and give our absolute all and I’m sure everyone will”.
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