By RJ Mitchell
It may have been 115 years since the first Scottish National Badminton Championships but the 2023 edition provided a tournament packed with drama, tears and lung-bursting action which will rarely have been bettered in terms of compelling competitive content since those sepia dimmed and distant days.
With shocks in the semi-finals of both singles events and epic three set encounters in the women’s, men’s and mixed doubles punctuating the latter stages of each event, Scotstoun provided the perfect stage for a memorable weekend of action.
First-up a third successive Men’s singles title for Callum Smith has prompted the Scotstoun ace to pronounce his hat-trick as the perfect platform for next week’s European Mixed Team Championships.
The Glaswegian had just too much ‘game’ for 16- year-old Matthew Waring en route to claiming a 21-10, 21- 15 victory with what was a mature and efficient performance.
Waring, who had earlier posted the shock of the men’s singles by defeating No.2 seed James Robertson in the semis, was given very little encouragement that he could repeat his giant killing and slay the top seed.
A delighted Smith said: “Given I am only 20 I am really proud to have made it three national titles in-a-row and I hope I still have improvement in my game and more titles to come.
“I was really pleased with the solid start as I didn’t want to give Matthew any encouragement after the way he’d played against James and although I had to come from behind in the second set I felt confident that my game was in a good place and that I could do that.
“We fly out to France on Sunday and really when it comes to the Europeans this has been the perfect preparation. I am in a good head space, pleased with my game and just really proud to be Scottish men’s singles champion again and defend my title.”
Yet young Waring is undoubtedly a name we will be hearing a lot more about with soft hands and a tactical maturity, when it kicked-in after a nervy start, indicating he will be a consistent challenger in his home nationals.
In the women’s singles a new champion was guaranteed when Lauren Middleton defeated top seed and defending champion Rachel Sugden in the semis to book a place against another newbie finalist in Chloe Hunt.
After securing a 21-19, 21- 14 victory the 22-year-old admitted she’d had to do it the hard way to land her first Scottish title: “To me it has been long overdue, every nationals it just seemed like it never quite happened for me so I am just very proud of myself for all the work I have put in and then finally to win the Scottish after the disappointments makes it all the more enjoyable,” said the new Scottish Ladies singles champion.
Middleton added: “Really I couldn’t have had a tougher draw with Toni Woods in the quarters and then Rachel in the semis and now I must use this to kick-on.”
Special mention must be made of beaten finalist Hunt who had earlier edged Katrina Chan after a truly epic semi-final ended in 22-21 in the deciding stanza.
In a breakthrough run for Hunt there was more than enough poise and power to point to a bright future.
In the Mixed Doubles top seeds Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson defeated Chris Grimley and Eleanor O’Donnell in straight sets 21 – 10, 21- 13, to claim their fourth national title as a pairing.
All of which left MacPherson to admit the victory had provided extra satisfaction: “What was really pleasing was that we gave Chris and Eleanor very little to work with and it was the same in the semis against Ciar (Pringle) and Sarah (Sidebottom) so we really maintained a good level in both these matches.
“We played Chris and Eleanor last year in the semis and it was a very tight three-setter and we are just very pleased to claim our fourth title as a pair. Each one is pleasing and this one is right up there because of the level we maintained throughout the tournament.”
The Men’s Doubles produced the expected world class contest between champions and top seeds Alex Dunn and Adam Hall and No.2 seeds Chris and Matthew Grimley.
In a super-tight first set there was barely a Rizla paper between them before Alex Dunn’s bellowed triumph confirmed the champions had drawn first blood 22-20 after the Scotstoun crowd had been at times left mesmerised by the dexterity and ferocity of the opening stanza.
If anything the intensity and also the velocity increased in the second session which continued to be a case of nip and tuck played at an at time breathless tempo with members of either side regularly left sprawling as they desperately bid to turn defence into attack.
Yet again, when it mattered, it was Dunn and Hall who prevailed this time by 29-27 and afterwards a breathless Alex Dunn admitted the rivalry between our two top men’s pairings is only driving their standards higher.
He said: “We know each other’s games so well and we play and train together almost every day and I guess that is why it is so much to and fro and I have to say I think the Grimleys get better every year and by doing that they are pushing us to do the same.
“So Adam and I are just very pleased to get over the line and win our fifth national title and whether it is ourselves or the twins who play in France at the European Mixed champs next week we will have a pairing who can cut it with the very best in Europe.”
In the Women’s Doubles No.1 seeds Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance benefitted from a semi-final walkover after Holly Newall & Tony Woods withdrew while Lauren Middleton and Eleanor O’Donnell confounded the seedings to defeat No.2 seeds Rachel Andrew & Sarah Sidebottom in a rollercoaster three-setter.
However in the final MacPherson and Torrance reinforced some of the fine badminton they had produced on the recent far east swing, particularly in Malaysia, to prevail 21-17, 21-12 and round off a fantastic finale in front of an enthralled Scotstoun crowd who stayed to the end.