By RJ Mitchell
INGO KINDERVATER has highlighted the need for a positive sign off when the European tournament swing comes to a conclusion with the Orleans Masters this week.
A strong Scottish contingent will be competing in the HSBC BWF World Tour Super 300 event at the Palais des Sports before our players take a well-earned break after a series of six tournaments spanning the length and breadth of the continent.
But with the 2024 Olympic qualification process starting on 1st May, as the journey to complete the 172 player entry across badminton’s five disciplines looms large, Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance is looking for a strong showing ‘en France’ to provide a positive platform into the Paris Olympic Odyssey.
Reflecting on all of this Ingo said: “We want to leave every tournament with positive results but also keep focusing on improving our game and every tournament is an opportunity to progress that process.
“But with the Olympic qualification starting on May 1 there will soon be an increased importance attached to these results and the need to produce positive outcomes.”
Perhaps the most interesting matchup from this week’s opening rounds comes in the Mixed Doubles where Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson face England’s Marcus Ellis & Lauren Smith in a repeat of last year’s Commonwealth Games semi-final which the English won.
With Ellis and Smith also recently beating Adam and Julie at the recent European Mixed Team Championships, Ingo explained the challenges which await the Scottish champions this week: “Adam and Julie will need to go in and believe in their chances and find the answers on court. The English are very good players with a lot of experience who have been around for a long time and although Marcus Ellis has been out with an injury he came back strongly at the Europeans.
“They (Marcus and Lauren) know what to do on a badminton court when it comes to finding ways to beat the opposition and they have a style they have used for many years which is very effective, so they have a specific way of playing badminton and are very good at getting their opponents to play their way.
“So Adam and Julie will have to find a better solution for the playing style of the English and on the back of these last two results there is obviously a mental challenge connected to that.”
Turning his attention to the Women’s Singles where Kirsty Gilmour is seeded seven ahead of her clash with Spain’s Clara Arzumendi Ingo said: “Obviously with the draw Kirsty has there is an opportunity but every match is a tricky one and Clara Azurmendi had a very good week in Spain and is a tall player with some effective weapons.
“So if you are not 100% switched on it is tough against her and she has beaten good players before and Kirsty played three sets against her previously, so there is a challenge there to be overcome.
“At Kirsty’s level the smallest margins make the difference and you need to get everything together at the right moment, this might not have always happened in some of the close games she had in the last weeks but she is up there challenging world class players.”
In Madrid last week the Scottish No.1 lady was beaten by Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung who went on to beat No.1 seed Carolina Marin en route to victory in Madrid.
As Ingo admitted that only underlines the depth of quality in the women’s game: “Kirsty has had tough draws but that is the way it is in women’s singles, so if you get the chance to go to one of these tournaments and be seeded then that is good news.
“Unfortunately if she had won one of those close sets in her two matches with Gregoria Mariska Tunjung (in Spain and before that at the Swiss Masters), the matches could have gone another direction but it didn’t happen and these are the challenges she faces at this elite level against this quality of opponent.
“So Kirsty is in good shape overall and we are looking for the couple of percent she needs to end up winning these close sets she has rather than losing them 21-19.”
In the Men’s Doubles the Grimley twins will look to build on a strong performance in the Spanish capital last week when they took the highly rated Indian pairing of Arjun and Kapila to three sets and Ingo said: “The twins have been around for us for quite a while and you can easily forget they are still young players in their development phase and they play very well with a little bit of consistency just missing.
“While at this stage in their development there are still parts of their game they are progressing and that is all part of the cycle.
“They are throwing themselves into these tournaments and taking every challenge on and in Poland there were good matches and it is good that they made the semis there.
“Then in Spain last week the performance against Arjun & Kapila was good against experienced opponents and again we are trying to find these few percentages to come out on top in that type of match and in the end every match they get is the next opportunity to make these improvements.
“In Orleans the first match they have is against qualifiers but that does not mean to say this will not be a tough proposition against a pair who have already got matches under their belts.
“Potentially the twins could either have a Malaysian pair and one of them was a silver medallist at the Rio Olympics or a strong French combination so that is no pushover in the first round.”
Scottish champions Adam Hall and Alex Dunn also have qualifier opposition but again Ingo stressed this means nothing in terms of a drop-off in quality: “One of the pairs they may face is a young Japanese pair who battled into the quarter-finals in Spain, so a qualifier can look straight forward on paper but in fact can be quite tricky.
“You can either face an up and coming pair who do not have the ranking they deserve at this moment or maybe a new combination or older experienced players so there are many different challenges posed in facing qualifiers.”
Find out more