By RJ Mitchell
INGO KINDERVATER believes that the Total Energies BWF World Championships have provided valuable lessons which will prove vital to our elite National Senior Squad’s continued development.
There were a string of impressive performances from our players at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen as well as some frustrating near misses which meant the 2023 version of badminton’s global tournament left a lingering sense of what might have been.
But with several of our players getting set to go again at the China Open the opportunity to make the most of another important week against the game’s finest opposition is only days away.
So when Scottish Badminton’s Head of Performance reflected on the week that was in the Danish capital he felt the positive takeaway was clear and one which our players will embrace as they project forward into their next competitive foray.
Ingo shared: “It was not the tournament we perhaps hoped for as we have had tournaments this year already where we felt closer, in terms of the doubles, to the absolute top pairs.
“But we perceive ourselves in a positive development phase and we can all put that into the correct context, learn the right lessons from it and stay as eager as before and not just say: ‘it wasn’t our tournament’.
“What we can’t do is hide away from the next development steps we have to take but own these and that is what we have done the whole time.
“So, all of our players are very clear on that and these experiences can turn into very valuable lessons that will hopefully sharpen everything in terms of clarity and eagerness to help do the right things and take the next steps.
“So I am positive that our players will take it this way to continue their progression and the next tournaments starting with the China Open will provide us with the opportunity to take these next steps.”
Every major tournament venue has its own set of unique challenges and the Royal Arena was no different and as Ingo admitted these were particularly tricky: “It was a quite typical big arena that these World Tour events are being played in with some side drift which made it a bit tricky,” he said.
Ingo continued: “Timing wise you have to solve this technically in a certain way and I think it’s fair to say that the absolute best and most experienced players in the World are still better than us at transporting their skill set into these arenas and handled the conditions in Copenhagen a bit better than us.
“That is completely fine as playing these venues is quite specific and it is very hard to replicate these conditions in training so you need the actual experience of playing the tournaments and also to learn from it.
“We now have to be eager to transport that into the next tournaments in China and Hong Kong where the conditions may be similar to the world champs.”
In the Women’s singles Kirsty Gilmour enjoyed an excellent three-set first round victory over Belgium’s Lianne Tan before losing out to the newly crowned Australian Open champion Beiwen Zhang in two hard-fought stanzas.
Commenting on this Ingo said: “In her opening match Kirsty had to fight to find the correct rhythm as she had an expectation to win while also dealing with the conditions and establishing herself as the better player.
“Lianne always makes it tough and fights very hard but it is very good that Kirsty always wins through in these tough matches.
“Zhang is just really good and now top-10 in the world and had just won the Australian Open which is a world tour event so really showing she was in a very good place.
“So we knew that would be a tough one and we started a bit slow but then played really well and with it being really close against that quality of opponent Kirsty just had to find the level of play that took her to that point, at the end of the game.
“So we are talking really high level and Kirsty’s top level, even if it was not for long enough to win that quality of match, combined with the clarity of what are the next steps will be a very good combination.
“So we are quite confident and looking forward to the next challenges in China and Hong Kong.”
In the Men’s Doubles, Adam Hall and Alex Dunn prevailed in their opening round when Canada’s Dong Adam and Nyl Yakura conceded due to injury after losing the first set 21-10.
In round two the Scottish champions were beaten by eventual finalists Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (12-21, 12-21) and Ingo admitted that on the day the Danes were simply the best.
He said: “Astrup and Rasmussen played amazing against us and they put so much pressure on us, actually more than we expected almost and they kept it up throughout the tournament, so highest respect to them for what they delivered all week on their way to the final.
“They made us play a certain way which we are not that comfortable with and the conditions in the hall also made our players feel more uncomfortable than the absolute world class players did.”
There was disappointment for the Grimley twins who were eliminated in an epic three-set first round encounter with Canada’s Kevin Lee and Ty Alexander Lindeman 24-22 in the decider and Ingo admitted: “The twins can play much better than they did and we did quite a deep debrief figuring out what kept them from playing to their fullest.
“There were several points to take on board in terms of a bit more variation and awareness of what happens on court and the management of the game, so some good learning points there for them which will be important to act upon.”
In the Mixed Doubles, Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson produced a super first round victory over World No.33 pairing of Rohan Kapoor & Reddy Sikki 21-14, 20-22, 21-18 before losing out in another tough three-setter to No.6 seeds Kim Won Ho and Jeong Na Eun.
Taking stock of this Ingo said: “In round one Adam and Julie did really well in terms of the tactical execution of the plan, which is something Adam and Julie are very good at anyway.
“The way that the match went we were on top of the game, won the first set and led in the second only to lose it and that can break you a wee bit but it was very mature of them to come out in the third and get back on top and close it out.
“In round two the Koreans are known badminton players and were both very good in men’s and women’s doubles before picking up Mixed Doubles and so they are not the most straightforward opponents as they play to the strengths of their skills with a cool style which tests you in many different ways.
“So our preparation was how can we win points against them as they make it so tough. The first set we struggled with the timing in the hall and we couldn’t get into it but in the second we came back strongly from that negative experience and also executed the game plan very well and stayed on top throughout the second.
“We then resisted the Korean fight back and in the third set it felt like we could have won it and were just a few points behind and couldn’t get the momentum back and maybe got a bit too impatient sometimes and struggled with their variety. It felt like if we’d taken the lead in the decider it may have fallen our way.”
When it came to the Women’s Doubles, there was a fine straight sets opening victory for Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance over Australia’s Kaitlyn Ya and Gronya Somerville before the Scots lost out to Malaysian 10th seeds Pearly Than and Thinaah Muralitharan also in two games.
Reflecting on this Ingo said: “It was pleasing to see how Julie and Ciara won a tricky first round match against the Australians who we knew would make it tough for us.
“It was a match we hoped to win but the opponents, the conditions and Ciara having to deal with a minor injury which limited her match play before the world championships, were all things we had to deal with.
“Julie and Ciara were not 100% throughout the match and the fact they came out on top was really positive, with the good bits being very high quality.
“Second round those girls are absolute world class and one of the best pairs in the world and the first set it felt like we were quite close and there were just little details that caused us to fall short.
“We feel like we can have the upper hand in a certain style of play against them but they managed to draw us a little too often into their preferred style of play and so we lost the first set but the girls had full clarity and really good tactical understanding of what happened.
“But it wasn’t such a good start in the second set and we lost the clarity and timing and with the momentum not being there it made it tough. So this is another thing to work on.”