By RJ Mitchell
KIRSTY GILMOUR has pronounced herself excited to test herself against the elite of the game as the Scottish No.1 prepares for a New Year that kicks-off with back-to-back bows in Malaysia and India over the next two weeks.
Gilmour opened her campaign in the Petronas Malaysia Open with a disappointing 21-17, 21-8 defeat in 31-minutes at the hands of Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan overnight while next week she will be competing against Germany’s Yvonne Li at the Yonex Sunrise Indian Open.
Having demonstrated at the European Mixed Team Championship qualifiers that she has completely recovered from a hip flexor injury; Gilmour completed an intensive six week festive training block that has sent her East in fine fettle.
The World No.17 has also revealed an interesting method of sight-seeing while she is competing abroad and trying to balance satisfying curiosity with conserving energy around her match schedule.
Speaking prior to last night’s match Kirsty said: “I am not seeded for either the Malaysia or Indian Opens but I am pretty happy with my ranking right now at No.17 in the world which is good.
“In Malaysia my first round is against Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand and in the first round in India I have Yvonne Li of Germany so both will be really tough but I have played both of them before and I have wins against both of them which is a positive.
“It’s just a really good way to hit the ground running although there is really no easy draw in women’s singles these days, it is just relentless.
“But I am excited to see how I can go as I have had a really good training block over the last six weeks and I have gained some fitness, am in a good place and looking to see how that all stacks up on the international stage against the best in the world.
“That said I am more of a big picture type of player rather than targeting specific tournaments. I enter every tournament trying to win it although obviously that can’t happen but the women’s singles is just so open that almost anyone could beat anyone else on their given day so it is difficult to set any specific goals.
“From that point of view I will be going in and looking to see how the progress I have made recently will pay off against these top girls and then see where that takes me.
“Akane Yamaguchi, the World No.1 from Japan is the top seed in Malaysia, while at the bottom of the draw you have An Se Young, the World No.4 from Korea as second seed.
“From my perspective if I beat Busanan then I would likely meet Yamaguchi which would be the ultimate test of my progress and the work I have put in recently.
“I am probably one of the older players at 29 and then you have An Se Young who is just 21, so there is a bit of an age range and it is a tough field.
“Regardless of how the tournament goes it is the ability of an athlete to spin things positively as we probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day if we didn’t!
“Physically I feel fit and strong and it is about putting that to the test, if it goes well then great, if not the I will know what I need to work on.
“So I am just looking forward to getting back out in Asia and taking my game to the best.”
For the Scottish No.1 there are more than a few positives about the trip to Kuala Lumpur and then New Delhi as Kirsty admitted: “October and November were our last international tournaments but they were all in Europe so it will be nice to be back out in Asia for the first time since September and I am quite looking forward to some winter heat!
“I will be looking up my coffee shops which is how I sight – see a place. I can’t afford to have tired legs by walking around so I sight – see by visiting the coffee shops, enjoy a sit down and take in the surroundings and hustle and bustle of the different cities.
“I have played the Malaysian Open before and in the venue it is currently held in for ’23 while regarding the Indian Open I played the tournament before it but not the Indian so I am looking forward to getting back out there in both these tournaments.
“The people that come to watch love badminton so it will be a really nice way to kick-off the New Year.
“I made second round in Malaysia before and in India I have made a semi-final so I have good memories and this will be the fifth or sixth time going out there and I am pretty comfortable with all that.”
Yet as Kirsty revealed the badminton environment in the far east is vastly different to that she experiences in Europe as she explained: “The hall in Malaysia I remember is really windy end to end, so you will have one end where you hardly touch the shuttle and it is in the tramlines at the opposite end, then you change ends at end of game and you are having to absolutely batter the shuttle to get it down the court. So it’s notoriously windy in Malaysia.
“India is a brand new hall so it will be interesting to see how that plays but what I will do is spend the hour that we are given for pre-tournament practise to really tune in to the conditions there, I guess I’ll need to get my wind gauge out and see how the shuttle flies!
“But it is nothing I haven’t dealt with before, these big halls out in the east are just really windy with both the amount of air con in use and the size of the crowds.
“Although the halls are completely sealed the air con is extreme and then you have people opening doors and moving around, finding seats and in and out and it really impacts on the flight of the shuttle.
“A shuttle only weighs five grams so that kind of activity really disrupts it. When you compare Kuala Lumpur for example to say Scotstoun then there is minimal disruption to the shuttle in the latter.
“There is probably no difference weight wise but a player will often describe a shuttle as heavy. Another factor is the make and manufacture of the shuttle. At Scotstoun at the EMTCQs we were using Victor shuttles while in Malaysia and India it is Yonex and they do fly a bit differently.
“At Scotstoun the roof is tangible and the back wall is right there whereas in the Malaysia and India your spatial awareness must be so much better as you don’t have the walls or spectators sitting nearby for reference.
“So you need to have your footwork perfect and feel out the space. I’d say on finals days it could be up to 8,000 as in both these countries they love their badminton.”
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