By RJ Mitchell
Alex Dunn has vowed not to let a back injury sustained on Scotland’s recent Far East swing ruin his bid to land a fifth Scottish national men’s doubles titles with Adam Hall.
The duo will face tough opposition in the face of Matthew and Chris Grimley who they have beaten in their last two finals but who also became champions in the pandemic blighted 2020/21 season.
Dunn also has no doubt that there are fast emerging new challengers to his pairings domestic hegemony.
The 24 year-old sustained the injury after the first round of the Petronas Malaysian Open a fortnight ago but managed to bite down on his gumshield to compete in last week’s Yonex Sunrise Indian Open, where he and Hall came within a whisker of a notable victory over the red-hot Chinese Taipei pairing of Lu Ching Yao & Yang Po Han, before going down in an epic three-set encounter 23-21 in third stanza.
Yet after returning to Scotland at the weekend, Dunn is completely dialled in on retaining his treasured national championship.
He said: “The injury came the day after the first round in Malaysia and I had just finished a 15-minute match within the training session and stepped on to the next court which was going to be a defence exercise and I just felt my back seize up.
“It has happened before but I think with the travelling and then the match the muscles just tightened up it was unfortunate but after our match in India I spent five days rehabbing and stretching and attempting to fix the back and thankfully it’s good for the nationals.”
“The Nationals may not be the biggest event for us but everyone wants to be the best in their country and over the years it has become more competitive with ourselves and the Grimley twins and some other younger pairs emerging as well.
“So winning the Scottish men’s doubles championship has a greater status about it now with the increase in quality talent competing. So it’s a great event and I love it.”
As he surveyed the main threats to his and partner Adam Hall’s top dog status, Dunn admitted that they will be facing a real challenge to hold on to their title at the National Badminton Academy Scotstoun come Friday week.
Dunn said: “We have had a few from the Development Squad starting to breakthrough and the next players behind the Grimleys are Adam Pringle, Ciar Pringle, Jack MacGregor, Kenneth Cheung and Callum Crangle and they have all been in training with us for quite a few years.
“So they know our game and we know theirs and they are desperate to catch and beat us and they are guys to watch out for and if you are not on you’re a-game they can easily take you out.”
Yet there is no doubt that Matthew and Chris Grimley, who will be desperate to claim a second national title, represent the main threat to Hall and Dunn: “Yeah, they are a massive danger. Although we are ranked higher we are similar levels with them although Adam and I maybe have the edge on experience.
“That said in our last two national finals with them there has only been one or two points in it and I assume it will be the same this year.
“We have beaten them in our last two finals and although we closed it out in straight sets there really has been nothing in it, so they are a massive threat who we can’t take lightly at all.
“We train every week together and we are great friends off the court so both pairings are pushing each other on with this rivalry and they will definitely be going into the nationals this year thinking they can make win the title back from us.
“But it’s also great to be back at Scotstoun, the nationals are a great event and I love the Scotstoun Hall and it is always nice for your family to see you in action as they don’t get that opportunity often.”
Reflecting on his last two weeks in the Far East, Dunn has no doubt that some invaluable lessons have been learned and he admitted: “The conditions can either be a good thing or a bad thing as you only have one style to play but unfortunately we didn’t play that style very well in Malaysia and also the Chinese Taipei pairing were on a very good run of form. So if you aren’t at the top of your game against the world’s best you will struggle.
“But in India the conditions were slightly better and we managed to turn it around. As I said I picked up the back injury the day after our match in Malaysia so I didn’t train for about a week and only had wee bit of practise before the first round in New Delhi but that can sometimes be quite a good thing as you only have one thing to focus on.
“So we had a very strict game plan because I was struggling and our tactics worked very well although unfortunately we didn’t get the win although we were leading 19-17 in the third and probably should have taken it.
“What they did well in Malaysia in difficult conditions was to take control of going forward to the net and also getting on the attack and that was what we wanted to do in Malaysia but we had more urgency to achieve that in India as I was struggling with my back.
“I didn’t want to be jumping around the back court and needed to let Adam take care of that so it was a focus on doing one thing well.
“So taking all things into consideration including my injury we are happy enough with where we were at that point.”
Alex added: “So we feel like we have shown that we can challenge the world’s best although at this level the one or two per cent makes a hug difference.
“The Scottish team has grown in the last couple of years and we are happy enough to win these couple of games here and there in these elite events as we are still picking up experience and still developing.
“But any time on court against these guys is massive for our development and you can see from the difference in the two matches we had with Yao and Han just how much we learned from Kuala Lumpur in terms of how much we put it to good use in New Delhi.
“So that is what we need to do for the next big tournament as there are some massive events coming up in 2023.”
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