By RJ Mitchell
RACHEL SUGDEN has revealed that competing in this year’s Scottish Open will help her finally put unfond memories of her first Scottish Open appearance to bed.
Two years ago the Balloch badminton ace was forced to scratch from the opening round of her first ever Scottish Open when a foot injury ruined her big moment.
No wonder then that as she projects forward to Friday’s meeting with Malaysia’s No.7 seeded Kison Selvaduray, Rachel will literally put her best foot forward.
Reflecting on all of this Rachel recalled: “It really means a lot to me to be playing the Scottish Open this year as I’ve technically not actually played it before!
“A couple of years back I did enter it but unfortunately I had a foot injury and all I could do was hobble on court and then withdraw.
“That was just so disappointing as it was my first Scottish Open and I had worked so hard on the build-up and then to get the injury was really hard to take.
“So this feels really special and I can’t wait to get on court at the Emirates and I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Rachel, ranked at World No.171, is the only direct Scottish entry into the women’s main draw, with Scottish No.1 Kirsty Gilmour not entering this year’s event due to other playing commitments as she chases entry for the Paris Olympics next year.
Abbie Brooks, Iona Muir, Sophie Ford, Amy Craig, Katrina Chan, and Lauren Middleton will all hope to make it through qualifying to join her.
When it comes to shouldering home hopes, Rachel is determined to focus on her own performance and she said: “Obviously Kirsty has set the standard and won the Scottish Open a couple of times and being a women’s singles player in Scotland the standard she has set is what you’ve always got to aim for and try and replicate.
“One day I hope to do that but right now I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself as recently I’ve not been playing the way I wanted to. Obviously you can’t play well at every tournament and that is competitive sport and part of the journey but to be honest the past couple of tournaments in Latvia and Belgium which I’ve played haven’t gone so well.
“So I just want to play my own game and concentrate on producing the best performance I can and really for the Scottish I just want to enjoy the experience and my goal is just to play well and not put too much pressure on myself.”
Rachel has revealed she has benefitted from top tips from former two time Scottish Open champion and Scotland team mate Kirsty Gilmour ahead of meeting world ranked No.64 Selvaduray in the opening round.
The Scotland No.2 said: “It is a tough draw with Selvaduray and she is a good player who is seventh seed for a reason and I’ve spoken to Kirsty already and she has given me a couple of pointers but I know that she is at a good level and I will need to play well.
“On top of that over this week in the build-up I will be doing my video analysis to see how she plays and work out patterns of play.
“But a good start will be important. She will no doubt start well and I need to match that and try and build momentum and confidence straight from the beginning.
“If I can achieve that then it gives me the foundation to really get into the game and hopefully impose what I’m trying to do in terms of my game plan on Kisona.”
Rachel has been working hard on some improvements that she hopes can make the difference this week and she shared: “I’ve been working on my serve and developing a bit more variation to try and really start the rallies as positively as I can by using the serve as a weapon.
“Also I’m continuing to work on the mental side of things and that is an ongoing process which has been running for a couple of years and it’s a long road with no quick fix.
“If I’m lucky enough to have the type of long career that Kirsty has I think experience can really come into play in that but gradually we are going in the right direction.”
When it comes to the benefits of a home crowd backing Rachel said: “The home support and having some familiar and friendly faces in the Emirates is the nicest part of playing at home.
“I’m hoping my parents will manage along and also my best friends will be keeping up with the live stream which will be really nice.
“Also some of the kids at Allander Badminton Club, Milngavie, where I coach, will hopefully make it along and that would be exciting.”
So, with some sports stars like Sir Andy Murray admitting they lock-on to faces in the crowd to surf positive energy and emotion, it was interesting to find out if Rachel will adopt this process and she explained: “For me I like to stay focused on just the court rather than looking out to the crowd but when I’ve played in the past and I’ve been nervous I’ve looked out to my mum and got a smile and that has helped calm me down.
“So if it is tight and I’m nervous it would be good if she was in the crowd but really I need to focus on what I’m doing on court and creating my own positivity.”
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