By RJ Mitchell
ADAM HALL hailed Scotland’s qualification for the European Mixed Team Championships as one of the proudest days of his international career.
The 26-year-old played a key part in getting his country across the line against determined Swedish opposition at Scotstoun when he partnered Julie Macpherson in the opening mixed doubles to a 22-20, 23-21 victory over Swedish pairing Johan Azelius and Clara Nistad.
When the two singles matches, involving the respective Scotland No.1s, saw a defeat for Callum Smith and a victory for Kirsty Gilmour the tie was precariously balanced at 2-1 in the Scots favour.
It was then that Hall returned for more pressing national service alongside Alex Dunn and, on paper at least a tight encounter against Joel Hansson and Meler Z-Bexell in prospect. The Scottish pairing proved just too savvy for their Scandinavian opponents en route to a 21-12, 21-11 victory in under 30-minutes.
Reflecting on a good days work, the Scottish ranked No.1 men’s doubles ace rightly savoured the success that will send us on our way to the finals in Aire-sur-la-Lys in the New Year.
Hall said: “This was right up there with anything I’ve done in badminton and I always feel like there is more pressure on the likes of Kirsty, Alex, and myself as we are the more experienced players and I was certainly very nervous ahead of the Czech tie on Saturday as I believe Kirsty was.
“But in front of a great home support it was just good to put on the level of performance with Julie initially to win the mixed and get us off to a good start and then with Alex to get us over the line.
“In terms of the men’s doubles I was really happy as we knew they could cause us problems if we didn’t play the right game and I felt we got the tactics spot on and we didn’t give them any chance to get any momentum going.
“To put the tie to bed with one match still to spare really highlights that we all did our jobs well today.”
In an atmosphere that at times resembled a Davis Cup tie the ferocity and velocity of some of the rallies in the mixed doubles at times had the pumped Scotstoun crowd gasping in an encounter that remained balanced on a knife edge throughout.
With the Scots taking the opening set 22-20 some of the dexterity and athleticism on show, as defence and attack were repeatedly traded by both pairings, at times resembled a scene from a Keanu Reeves Matrix film.
But despite the Swedes saving six match points in the second set, which like the first went to a tie-break, Hall and MacPherson got the job done 23-21 and as Hall considered Scotland were off to the winning start they craved.
The Scotland international said: “It is always really important to get off to a winning start, although it wasn’t our best performance, but what mattered was the result.
“They were a young pairing and on paper Julie and I should win that match but the key was to deny them the energy to feed off and we just about did that over what were two pretty tight games.
“I would say at the end they played some good stuff and we didn’t and went away from our game plan a bit but as I said the bottom line was to claim the win and get us off on the front foot for the rest of the match.”
However Sweden soon levelled the tie when World No.60 Felix Burestedt proved just too cute and too solid for Callum Smith in the men’s singles tie.
At times Burestedt’s ability to disguise the direction of his smashing left Smith wrong-footed while the Swede just appeared to have all the answers when it mattered most as he made his considerable experience at top European level tell.
With the tie entering a crucial stage the arrival of a world class performer like Kirsty Gilmour was soon to swing proceedings back in the Scots favour.
In an assured display the World No.18 combined an at times balletic grace with almost flawless shot selection to overturn a four point deficit at the start of the opening game and prevail 21-14.
The second stanza saw Gilmour turn the tourniquet ever tighter as she glided into the net like a shark locating it’s dinner with Sweden’s Edith Urell proving plucky but increasingly helpless fare as the three times European silver medallist triumphed 21-9.
Kirsty said: “It means so much to qualify for the Europeans again and even more so as we came and did it in front of a home crowd who really got behind us and now we can all look forward to Christmas before getting our heads down for France next year.
“I think the other great thing is that we really showed our quality and when you haven’t had the chance to play in front of your home crowd that often that really matters.
“I’ve never played an international event in Scotstoun and it maybe took me a bit of time to figure that out and my opponent as well, particularly early on, but as I got into it I felt my game came on well and the things that I have been working on in training really came through and that is very pleasing.
“So that work has transferred and I’m happy with it and looking forward to building on this in 2023.”
All of which left Hall and Dunn to wrap up proceedings early and allow Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance to stand down from women’s doubles duty.
Afterwards there were happy scenes and undoubted satisfaction, yet as Head of Performance Ingo Kindervater observed on the side-lines, this is precisely the type of test the Scots must expect to pass routinely as they look to take the next step from the fine fifth place finish in Finland last time around.