By RJ Mitchell
JOSH APILIGA has branded his qualification for the main draw of the Scottish Open as the biggest achievement of his career – to date.
The 22-year-old had to do it the hard way gamely fighting his way through three rounds of qualifying before befuddling the eighth seeded Englishman Nadeem Dalvi 21-19, 21- 7, in a performance which was built on some superb lifting and exceptionally soft hands at the net.
Given that Apiliga’s Scottish ranking has plummeted to 74, as a direct result from his ongoing battle with tendinopathy in the patellar tendon of his right knee, while Dalvi is rated at No.3 in the English national rankings, no surprise then that Josh’s smile was as wide as the Clyde when Badminton Scotland caught up with him after-match.
The proud Glaswegian said: “I certainly think this is one of the best wins of my career and qualifying for the main draw of the Scottish Open is right up there with anything I’ve done in it.
“It just means so much. I’ve grown up coming to this tournament and watching it and then trying to qualify and it’s not like I’ve had a wild card, I’ve had to work for it today and it is just so satisfying.
“Probably to be honest I have struggled for a while now with my confidence and to beat a player of Nadeem’s quality is a real boost in that respect.
“I have had injury issues with tendinopathy in the patellar tendon and that has been going on for over 18 months and I am just back training fully in the last three months.
“I think all of that has really come into play today and got me through the three matches.”
With Dalvi pushed further and further into the tramlines the Englishman’s recovery journeys to the centre of the court began to drain him of both confidence and energy.
In the second set especially, when Apiliga regularly pushed the shuttle back straight down the line and back behind Dalvi, the England No.3 was clearly left all shook-up and as momentum ebbed away from him increasingly without an answer.
Rhythm gone, Dalvi was ensnared in the Scot’s web and there was to be no way out leaving Josh reflecting on a job well done: “I think my style is quite counter attacking and I know that my lifts and front court stuff are the strongest parts of my game and I felt that was what got me control of the match.
“So it’s been a tough day but I am just really happy and now I will go home and rest up for a big day and another tough match tomorrow.”
Josh will now face fellow qualifier Harry Jones from England in an 11am start that is shaping up to be a must see after his heroics today.
Meanwhile there was a case of agony and ecstasy in the final round of the women’s singles qualification tournament.
In the all Scottish meeting between Abbie Brooks and Iona Muir, the former built a solid early 15-10 lead, only for her 16 year-old opponent to close the gap to two points as proceedings got interesting.
It was then that Abbie’s right hamstring pinged and after an injury consultation she was sadly forced to scratch.
As Iona, who ironically has been struggling with an ankle injury, conceded it was not the way she wanted to make the main draw but a case of needs must.
Reflecting on this the Scotland No.4 said: “Abbie has been suffering with a hamstring problem for a while now and it is just really tough for her and it isn’t the way I wanted to make the main draw.
“I never thought I’d make the main draw at 16 and I’m just pleased to be there now but what is important right now is that I go and have a word for poor Abbie, I really felt for her.”
In tomorrow’s first round Iona will face Sweden’s Mirjam Lindgarde while Lauren Middleton faces Wales’s Saffron Morris and Scotland No.2 Rachel Sugden meets no.7 seed Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia.
Meanwhile Scotland No.3 James Robertson, who is a wild card member of the main draw, will open up his campaign against Austrian Collins Valentine Filimon tomorrow in a 10.20am start relishing the prospect.
The 22 year-old said: “I just want to get on court, deliver a strong performance and see where that takes me. Maintaining consistency is the key and producing that at a higher level. So, I know this will be a test but it is one I am relishing.
“I haven’t played Filimon before but I’ve watched him a couple of times and watched plenty of footage during the week so I am good to go.
“I’ve had a good few weeks training in Scotland with the national team after coming back from Latvia and Belgium so I’m feeling positive and determined to get a positive result.
“I made the final round of qualies in Latvia and it is great to be main draw this weekend.”
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