EMTCQ2022: Scotland off to a flyer!

By RJ Mitchell

CALLUM SMITH has pronounced Scotland’s 5-0 victory over Luxembourg in the opening tie of their Group 4 Subgroup Two European Mixed Team Championships qualifiers as the perfect start.

Smith had missed a sizeable chunk of preparation due to a flu bug which had left him bed bound but the Scotstoun man despatched Jerome Pauquet in just under 24 minutes with an increasingly assured display in front of an enthralled home crowd at the National Badminton Academy in Scotstoun.

With Smith almost certain to lead the line against Czech Republic poster boy Jan Louda, who recently made the final of the Welsh Open, in Scotland’s second group tie on Saturday, some valuable match play was vital for the 20-year-old.

Afterwards the Scotland men’s No.1 men’s singles ace said: “It was great to get my point for the team and especially so after my preparation was disrupted by illness. Performance wise I felt I did well despite the lack of training, was disciplined when it mattered and I felt stable the whole way through. So it has been a very good start for both me and the team and just what we hoped for in front of our home fans.

“I would say I am a flat and fast player and I try and force the lift and then counter attack and I felt I was hitting big and just really enjoyed playing on a very nice court so close to my home in Scotstoun which is just two minutes away.

“Coming into this one I had complete confidence in all of the team to do their jobs and all round we got it right and it was just great to see the home fans out in numbers and really engaged in the match.”

After a low key start Smith was soon into his stride and by midway in the opening set had claimed a lead he was never to lose en route to a 21-12 success in just under 12 minutes.

Smith’s growing dominance manifested itself in increasing aerial superiority and some brutal power plays as he built an early and decisive second set lead while also finding time for some very soft hands at the net, especially on the backhand wing, against the obdurate Pauquet who had clearly come to play.

Yet 11 minutes later Smith was victorious, and Scotland were well on their way to an opening victory against their low country opposition.

However, as he admitted Smith has no doubt that he will be the underdog when he faces Louda on Saturday in a mouth -watering men’s singles and he said: “It is great to get the chance to play against someone like Louda who is in great form but the opportunity to test myself against him is something I am relishing – if selected.

“That said I am an underdog for that one, but I will have the home crowd with me and hopefully I can feed off the adrenaline of all that and really raise my game and take it to him.”

The Scots had earlier got off to the best possible start when Alex Dunn and Ciara Torrance out manoeuvred Yannick Feltes and Zoe Sinico 21-10, 21-12 in just under 30 minutes with a clear superiority in tactical guile, power and deftness obvious from the outset.

Dunn’s power overhead and impressive hangtime leading into his smash allied with the greater bite on Torrance’s net play proving pleasingly decisive.

With Rachel Sugden being given the nod ahead of the rested Kirsty Gilmour the decisive third match was soon on court to an increasingly busy backdrop as the Scotstoun stand steadily filled.

Sugden was in no mood to disappoint en route to compiling a straight game victory over Kim Schmidt 21-13, 21-11, yet afterwards with mum Karen and sister Anna in the audience, the Scotland No.2 admitted she had suffered from nerves although they certainly didn’t show.

Rachel revealed: “I only learned I was playing after Wednesday’s final training session and it was an exciting prospect but with so many friends and family in the crowd I admit I was a wee bit nervous so I was really happy to get that done in two games.

“I was also happy that I was able to play my game and impose it on her and if pushed I’d say it was a seven out of 10 performance but given I was nervous to play through that, stick to my game plan and come out the other side strongly with the win was great.”

With victory already convincingly claimed it was then time for the Grimley twins, Christopher and Matthew, to take the court and the opening game was soon filleted 21-6 as the returning Pauquet and Feltes found themselves out-gunned from the get-go.

The Scots were in no mood to let up and stormed to an 11-3 lead by half-way in the second stanza with their work razor sharp and laser guided in its accuracy, as the pairing from Luxembourg were at times left shaking their heads at the Scots superiority, before the brothers Grimley added the second game 21-7.

Last but by no means least on court were Julie Macpherson and Eleanor O’Donnell in a women’s doubles encounter with Myriam Have and Zoe Sinico.

With a decisive victory already claimed it could not have been easy for the Scottish women’s pairing to retain maximum focus.

You would never have known such was the intensity of their work in taking an early 12-6 lead with some great rallies peppering every part of the court en route to a 21-15 take-home.

Impressively there was to be no let-up in the quality of the Scots work front and back as they secured the second set 21-7 to guarantee a silent night for the visitors.

Overall this was a performance that will have greatly pleased the intently watching Scottish coaching team of Ingo Kindervater, David Gilmour, and Bob Blair but they will know for sure that the Louda inspired Czechs will offer a far more severe test of Scotland’s qualification hopes on Saturday afternoon.