Malaysia Open 2023 Preview: Bob Blair

By RJ Mitchell

BOB BLAIR has admitted that only his Scots Squad’s best will be good enough as the HSBC WBF World Tour Super 1000 Petronas Malaysian Open prepares to get into full swing, starting 10 January.

The former World No.4 ranked men’s doubles ace is the lead coach for the seven strong Scottish playing party who flew east on Friday afternoon.

Yet as the former men’s doubles World Championship runner-up assessed our doubles teams prospects Blair remained positive despite his pragmatism.

He said: “Coming to these events the standard is so high across the board it is tough to win any matches so our focus is to be at our absolute best in order to compete and get over the line.

“If we come away with a few second rounds then at this level it means we are up there competing with the very best in the world.

“The draws the players have had reflects the high quality they face as the opposition is all world class or have been up there competing for and winning some very big tournaments.

“But if we can win our first rounds we are very capable of winning a few more so we need to go in and produce our best and that would make us very dangerous.”

The sternest draw of the lot was reserved for the women’s doubles where Ciara Torrance and Julie MacPherson have landed a super-tough opener having drawn the No.2 seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida who are also currently the World No.2 ranked pairing in the women’s game.

Blair admitted: “The Japanese pairs are all of a similar style and they make it physically very tough and don’t give easy points away and are happy to play long, long rallies so this is a very good mental test for our pair to see just how resilient they can be.

“Cia and Julie will have to fight with every ounce of energy they have, they will have chances to take points but it is a question of keeping our consistency level high enough to make a sustained challenge.”

In the men’s doubles the top ranked Scottish pairing of Alex Dunn and Adam Hall face a daunting opening round against the Chinese Taipei pairing of Lui Ching Yao and Yang Po Han who, although they are unseeded, have a world ranking of 15 compared to the Scots rating of 25.

With only eight pairs seeded in the 32 couple main draw this is one of the toughest unseeded draws the Scots could have landed as they look to extend their stay in Kuala Lumpur.

Blair commented: “In Men’s doubles nobody is totally outstanding and everyone is quite similar so Alex and Adam do have a chance but the Chinese Taipei partnership are one of the most improved over the last six months and they won the French Open.

“So it would be a very good victory for our boys to claim but although it’s a stern challenge it is within their ability and of course the pairings have also been drawn together in India the following week which is interesting.”

Meanwhile Chris and Matt Grimley face a nervous wait to see if a place in the draw opens up for them after they were made first reserves.

Turning his attention to the mixed doubles the Scottish coach was keen to explain an apparent anomaly in the seedings which has seen the higher ranked Scottish pairing of Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson remain unseeded despite being ranked World No.21, five places higher than the Hong Kong China duo of Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Tsuet, who are seeded No.5 and have a world ranking of 26.

Blair explained: “The Hong Kong dup have not been playing so much due to the Covid restrictions over there and the girl had arm surgery last year so they will have missed a few tournaments but at their best they are an absolute world class pair and being seeded No.5 does them no disservice.

“That said after an extended period away we will see if they are at their sharpest but Adam and Julie will need to bring their A-game.”

The other Scots’ mixed doubles pairing Alex Dunn and Ciara Torrance are also trusting to divine intervention after being placed on the reserve list.

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