FZ Forza Dutch International: Callum Smith Reflects

By RJ Mitchell

CALLUM SMITH is hoping that a promising showing at last week’s FZ Forza Dutch International will help put behind a frustrating spell of injury and illness.

The three-time Scottish Men’s Singles champion missed most of the recent European swing after suffering a back injury but last week Smith bounced back strongly in Wateringen recording fine wins over English and Slovak opposition before succumbing to a Japanese opponent in three sets at the final qualifying stage for the main draw.

Now with a trip down to the National Badminton Centre in England in the pipeline Smith is once again looking forward with a smile on his face as he bids to build some real momentum.

Yet as Callum explained his return to the competitive fray in Holland was a tough one: “Qualifying is very difficult and it’s tough to make the main draw and that wasn’t made any easier by the fact I have had illness and injury issues which have all hit my preparation,” said the Scottish champion.

Callum continued: “I injured my back in training just over a month ago and I wasn’t allowed to train for a couple of weeks and had to just take care of my back and all I could do was skills sessions and no proper training and that does impact on your fitness after a few weeks.

“Coming down with Covid just before the European Team Champs was not great either so to get to the last round of qualifying was something that I was very happy with.”

Reflecting on last week’s action Callum said: “The English boy (Ethan Rose: w: 21-18, 21-13) I had never beaten before so to get the win over him was really pleasing. I played him in an under-19 in Ireland a few years back and lost in three sets but this time I felt very comfortable.

“Against the Slovakian (Marian Liptak: w: 21-6, 21-12) I felt pretty comfortable the full game and he made a few mistakes and was pretty inconsistent.

“In terms of the Japanese (Keisuke Fujiwara: L: 18-21, 21-15, 10-21) he was left handed and he sliced the shuttle a bit differently, he liked the hard and fast game and took the shuttle early which was quite tough.

“But if I had been fit I think I would have had a shot at him, so it was frustrating to run out of steam. That said it was my first tournament in a few months and given the current level I am at I’m happy with the wins in the first two rounds.”

Callum added: “Obviously I did miss a few tournaments, like Portugal, and that was annoying as at this stage you want to pick up as many ranking points as you can but injuries do happen and that is all part of sport and also so does illness.

“With the qualifying at the Forza being three matches in the one day that just made it difficult and especially in my last match the fitness just wasn’t there and in the third set my level dropped off against the Japanese player.

“It was probably around two and a half hours of game time in total in the one day and coming on the back off the last few weeks, when I have only managed to get a few practise sets in over the last few days leading into the Dutch, it was a big ask.

“But although I was a bit stiff the next day I am pretty relieved that there were no negative reactions from my body and these three matches are now good to have in the bank.”

As Callum revealed he now has the ideal opportunity to build on his promising victories last week and he said: “Now I want to get a big training block under my belt to get my fitness where I want it to be and I’m really pleased to be going down to England for a week’s training with the English National set up and English coaches. It will be great to freshen things up with that.

“That is down at Milton Keynes, at the England National Badminton Centre, and I will be training with the likes of Harry Huang, Zack Bobrowski and Ethan Rose, who I played in the Dutch qualies first round, and I will be working with Julie Mann and George Bevan.

“That will really motivate me with the switch up with a change of scenery, so that is an exciting prospect and one I am grateful for.”

The Scottish champion was also keen to take time out to thank his sponsors for their backing during a testing time and Callum said: “I am very grateful to my sponsors like Uplift Forklifts, Pearsons of Duns and Border Embroideries for supporting me as their backing has really helped and goes a long way. I’d also like to mention VICTOR who have just come on board for me with new kit which is top quality.

“But thanks also to all the coaches and physio staff for their help in trying to make me the best I can be, especially over the last few weeks, which have been tough, their help and support has been really appreciated.”