LI-NING China Masters 2023 Preview: Kirsty Gilmour

By RJ Mitchell

KIRSTY GILMOUR has admitted that she will go into her opening round of the Li-Ning China Masters against He Bing Jiao with a clean slate.

The Scot will face World No.6 Jiao with a head-to-head rating of two-a piece – the last meeting coming three years back at the All England. However, looking back on past results is redundant for this HSBC BWF World Tour Super 750 encounter.

Having recently reached the semi-final of the Hylo Open, Kirsty is closing the year in increasingly strong form and as she looks forward to tomorrow’s meeting she is determined to build momentum.

Reflecting on all of this Kirsty shared: “I think it comes down more on me rather than on her. It’s the only part I have some sort of control over. So I’m really focusing on trusting myself and my own game right now and not get too bogged down in the details of someone else.

“If I’m playing my absolute best game then I can handle anything they throw at me. We’ve played, I think, 4 times, so I know I can cause her some issues although it’s been about four years since we last played so I think I will just start my notes fresh and with a clean slate.

“Jiao is quite a patient and an absorbent player but with some changes of pace. So I’ve looked at some specific strengths and weaknesses that she has with Tine (Baun) and Ingo (Kindervater, Head of Performance) and now we will go from there.”With a season’s best run to the semi-finals of the Hylo Open in Saarbrucken at the beginning of the month and a fine win over Germany’s Yvonne Li last week at the Kumamoto Masters in Japan, Kirsty is looking forward with plenty of positivity.

The Scotland No.1 said: “I was really happy with how I maintained my level through the week at the Hylo. Maybe up until the semi where I don’t think I managed to find my best level actually. (lost v Line Kjaersfeldt 16-21, 17-21).

“But to put in back to back good performances was a real goal for me, so I can be satisfied that I managed that but it’s been an accumulation over the last few tournaments. I’ve been reaching a great level but not getting the wins so it was satisfying to be slightly rewarded at Hylo.”

That semi-final against the Dane hinged on Kirsty’s early 9-4 lead being reeled in after a string of tight calls went against her and as Kirsty explained this is all part and parcel of the match process:

“Games have natural ebbs and flows and on this occasion it didn’t go my way. We spend a lot of time looking at how we can stop these runs of points, it’s always an ongoing process.

“We try to have plans in place for each situation- this one is just as simple as don’t let the shuttle drop unless you’re 110% sure!”

Moving on to Kumamoto, Kirsty was pleased with her (22-20, 21-16) victory over Germany’s Li: “I felt like I under-performed the last two times we played so it was nice to prove to myself that I can analyse those last 2 performances, reflect, and make changes to improve.

“I think mentally I started in a better place, I was fully prepared for a tough physical battle and had good trust in my own naturally attacking game.”

In the second round in Japan, Kirsty lost out to eventual semi-finalist Beiwen Zhang (13-21, 14-21) and provided some fascinating insight into that outcome: “I think Beiwen neutralises my attack well. She absorbs and defends incredibly. I think it was necessary for me to go all in but I needed to bring my margins in for it.

“Ultimately I made a few too many errors when I was in good positions.”

This week’s action at the Shenzhen Bay Gymnasium will be Kirsty’s final tournament before the Women’s European Team qualifiers in Azerbaijan.

Taking stock of that Kirsty, who has moved back up to No.24 in the BWF world rankings, said: “It would be nice to get a good run in this tournament but I try to see every tournament individually and not think too much of what came before or what’s to come after.

“So right now I’ll just focus on the first round against HBJ and take it from there. Then I have a few rest days before the Euro Qualifiers.”

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