By RJ Mitchell
ALEX DUNN is hoping to put a string of frustrating injuries behind him to go deep in the VICTOR Hong Kong Open Men’s Doubles this week.
Alex and Adam Hall have been drawn against old French foes Christo and Toma Popov in the first round at the Hong Kong Coliseum with the Scottish Champions looking to make it three wins on the bounce against the Gallic brothers.
Despite losing a first round encounter with Japan’s Akira Kogo and Taichi Saito in last week’s China Open, Alex believes the duo’s game is “85%” of where it needs to be and that a good run at this week’s HSBC BWF World Tour Super 500 can provide a launchpad back to optimum form and fitness.
He said: “Injury wise it’s been a real mixture. At the European Games I had been struggling with Achilles pain and then I hoped that a week’s holiday would cure it but when I got back to training it was maybe too much too soon and my Achilles became tight and inflamed and the first week’s training was scrapped.
“Second week I had an issue with a bone between ankle and shin and then my back went so the build up to the worlds was totally disrupted and that was reflected in how it went in Copenhagen.
“There is nothing worse than having your build up ruined by niggles but that is your life as an athlete and you have to cope with it.
“To have so many in that short period with it being a different issues each week it was tough but hopefully this week we can put all of that behind us and kick on.”
When it came to this week’s opener against the Popovs, Alex admitted that the Frenchmen will be well fired up as they hunt their first victory against the Scots and he said: “We’ve played them twice and both times have been European Champs and European Games and it’s 2-0 us, so it’s nice to have that in the back pocket.
“That said they have been playing pretty well and are very close to us in the world rankings (Dunn & Hall: World No.24; Popovs: World No.39) and like us they are trying to break into that next level as well and they’ve shown they can compete with the top pairings.
“So although the scores from our last two meetings maybe reflect it was straight forward that was not the case and we had to work hard for these wins and it will be the same again this week.”
Analysing their opponent’s strengths Alex shared: “They are both very good singles players and very talented in that respect and then they tried out doubles and have had some success.
“They like to play an open game rather than make the court small, very technical and ‘doublesy’. So they like to open the court out and use their skills and strength and we need to make it as tight as possible which is where we thrive.”
Last week in Changzhou the Scottish champions went down 13-21, 17-21 to world ranked No.17 Kogo and Saito and although frustrated at the loss, Alex was upbeat about the takeaway from the China Open: “Looking at the draw we thought it was quite promising, we knew they had been playing well against some of the top guys but it was a match we thought we could win.
“We were quite confident about our game plan and even during the match it was working but in the first set we had a few simple errors and that tipped the balance their way.
“In the second set we found our game and were leading all the way through to 17 and then they upped their level and I felt we lost a bit of conviction when it mattered.
“We maybe strayed a bit from our game plan and hit a couple of shots out the back and it just turned so quickly and we came off feeling quite bad about the match.
“I’d say that 85% of our game was there and it was the little things which killed us. But we feel the bones of our game are now there and the next day in practise we ironed out what had gone wrong and hopefully that is all sorted for this week.
“Really it’s very simple. We missed some very easy shots at the net to either finish the rally or when we were in control. Obviously in these big halls there is a little bit of drift and the shuttle can almost stop on you sometimes.
“So it is about finding the right balance and not being too eager, it’s so simple, but when you play in a massive arena it just isn’t as easy as you think from watching on TV.”
Lurking deeper in this week’s draw, should Alex and Adam pop out the Popovs, could be more familiar opposition in Denmark’s world championship runners-up Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen who beat the Scottish champions on their glory run in Copenhagen.
It is a potential rematch which has Alex bristling: “We know they are probably next and obviously they have been playing well making the final of the worlds and beating the World No.1 pairing in China in the first round before going out in the quarters.
“So they are bang on form and full of confidence but we can’t think too much about that game although if that was the case we would just want to put in a stronger performance than the worlds.
“But if we lift our game and play exceptionally well I don’t see why we can’t win.”
Yet Alex provided a fascinating insight into just why Astrup and Rasmussen are enjoying such success against the dominant Asian elite: “The Asians are so strong and have superb sparring but the Danes pull them into a rhythm where they are just not flowing around the court as they normally do.
“So the Danes make it stop start, make it thoughtful and that takes the Asians out of their comfort zone and then it is quite hard to be as natural and sharp as they usually are.
“Also the Danish don’t integrate as much as the other Europeans and remain very tight knit and keep their ways to themselves.
“Ingo (Kindervater) analysed it after our match with them and what we do well they analysed too perfection and took our strengths away from us as quickly as they could.
“But they played very well and we were not quite at the races and that made it very difficult for us to get any rhythm or confidence.
“It is nice to see a European pair doing so well and if we can incorporate something they do well into our game then very much we are open to that if it can be a positive for us.”
Meanwhile in the women’s singles Kirsty Gilmour faces Taipei’s world ranked No.19 Pai Yu Po.
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