By RJ Mitchell
RACHEL ANDREW is determined to use this week’s Yonex Welsh International challenge to end 2023 on a Mixed Doubles high.
The Scotland international and sidekick Adam Pringle had a hugely impressive run to the semi-finals of the Victor FZ Forza Hungarian International Championships earlier in the month.
However at the AIG Forza Irish Open last week their progress was halted with a disappointing first round defeat against French opposition.
Now as Rachel revs up for her trip to Cardiff, and a first round meeting with the fourth seeded Danish duo of Andreas Sondergaard and Iben Bergstein, in what will be the Scots’ pairing’s final tournament of the year, she is determined to reproduce their best form.
Reflecting on all of this Rachel said: “This week we have Sondergaard and Bergstein in the first round and we know how tough it will be.
“We have never played them as a pair but we have played the girl in mixed and Adam has played Sondergaard in men’s doubles so we know quite a bit about them – although it will be different in terms of playing them as a pair.
“So I think it is a match we can win if we play well but we must deliver and play to the same standard we produced in Hungary.
“For us it is the final tournament of the year as a pair and we want it to be a strong finish to 2023.”
Rachel added: “2023 has gone well over all for us. We did have a gap in the summer where we didn’t play many tournaments but we had a good training block during that period and I think that has been a good preparation for the second-half of the year and has been invaluable to what we produced in Hungary.
“What we need now is to find the consistency to reproduce that form week-in, week-out, and that is what this week will be all about.”
Turning her attention to that semi-final surge in downtown Budapest, Rachel has no doubts that this was one of her partnerships finest campaigns and she said: “Over all from round to round it was definitely one of our best performances at a tournament as a whole.
“We got through a tough three-setter in the quarter – finals against a pair we had played before (Jacobo Fernandez and Paula Lopez 16-21, 21-14, 26-24) and that was a fantastic match that was right up there as a performance in terms of anything we have produced as a pair.
“Especially in that one we were down 20-18 in the third and we really hung in there and saved the match points and found a way to turn it around 26-24, so I think that showed us both the value of just not giving up.”
Last week in Cardiff it was not to be for Rachel and Adam and Rachel admitted her disappointment at defeat in Dublin: “Our preparations had been going well and although it didn’t go so well for us in Ireland last week (l: Mael Cattoen and Emilie Vercelot 17-21, 11-21) hopefully we can bounce back this week in Wales.
“Basically I think we just didn’t get off to a great start and maybe our focus wasn’t as strong as it should have been, so we definitely need to make sure we start faster this time around.”
Rachel won’t be competing in the Women’s Doubles in Cardiff this week as she explained: “I have been partnering Sarah (Sidebottom) but she had a hip operation in the summer and she is still recovering from that so she won’t play Wales.
“It is a relatively new partnership but we are very good friends so it is nice to play with Sarah and we enjoy playing together and hopefully we will be back competing as a pair soon.”
While the Yonex Welsh International may be the curtain call for Rachel’s mixed schedule she will be back in action for the Scottish Women’s team in Azerbaijan next week in the European qualifiers.
Projecting forward to this she admitted that the Scots will have to be at their best to repeat their bronze medal heroics from three years back.
Rachel said: “I didn’t play in the qualifiers I just played in the Uber Cup finals so I missed out on the bronze.
“We are all really close which makes it nice when you go away and we know that we will all need to pull together as Azerbaijan and Estonia are both tough teams.
“I know they are both strong in the singles and that the Azerbaijan No.1 (Keisha Fatimah Az Zahra) beat Yvonne Li of Germany recently and Kirstin Kuuba the Estonian No.1 made the final of the Scottish plus the Estonians have a very good doubles pairing.
“I will probably be playing with Eleanor O’Donnell and we play together in training and with Sarah being out injured I partnered Eleanor in the middle of the season.
“So we are familiar with each other’s games and if we need to play together we would both look forward to that.
“We haven’t played too many team events recently and it is just different playing for Scotland and there is definitely just an extra dimension to playing for your country.
“So everyone is looking forward to it and determined to do well.”