Callum’s Malteser

CALLUM SMITH has made tomorrow’s first round of qualifying at the Malta International a must win match.

The three-time Scottish Men’s singles champion is seeded No.2 and has drawn Hungary’s Adam Konczol in his opening foray at the Cottonera Sports Complex in Conspicua.

With Smith at 419 in the global BWF rankings and his opponent at 840 the stats favour a Scottish victory.

With only two successes in qualifying required to make the main draw, Callum has no doubt that a victory over Konczol could be the key to qualification.

As he explained: “I don’t really know too much about the Hungarian but I’ve checked out his results and they are fairly decent. The guy (Rafael Gavois) that I lost to in Portugal (21-10, 17-21, 24-22) in the third only beat him 21-19, 21-19, so I think it will be a tough match.

“But hopefully if I can give it my best shot I can make it through. Konczol will be tougher than my second round match, so I need to get over the line in that first game.

“Also this time in Malta it is just two matches to qualify for the main draw, so that is why this first match is so important.”

The Going Set To Be Good:

Callum is also confident that conditions will suit his dynamic all-action brand of badminton: “I am not sure temperature wise what to expect as I’ve never played there before but you could be talking 22/23 degrees.

“Also it is Victor shuttles which are fast, so if it is a hot hall it will be fast and that will suit me.”

Pressure On:

After a succession of near misses when it comes to making the main draws in Poland and Portugal recently, a candid Callum admits that, to a certain extent, the pressure is on this week.

Reflecting on this he said: “The past two tournaments have been missed opportunities for me. I’ve had good chances in both and the players who have beaten me have both progressed, got through to the main draw and done well.

“With Gavois in Portugal I had three match points so that could have been me making it through, so I’ve got to start converting these opportunities.

“It was an equal match all through the third set but I had been struggling with a virus both Angus (Meldrum) who I roomed with, and I caught, and in the third set it did have an impact but I had my chances. So it could have gone my way but it didn’t and that’s the way it goes.

“In the Polish I lost to (Adrian) Dzolkio (18-21, 16-21) and it was another game which I had a decent chance to win but again I managed to train only once before the Polish due to illness and a back injury, which said I have to hold my hands up and admit that performance wise it just wasn’t great.

“I missed shots and then left shots which landed in and really overall it was one of the worst performances I’ve had and I really hope Malta can get me back on track again.

“The back is fine now but I have a bit of a wrist niggle although it’s nothing too serious and my fitness is pretty good overall.”

Climbing The Rankings:

Yet when it comes to the importance of scaling the BWF ratings list Callum was in no mood to play down the importance of moving on up and he said: “Losing first round means I’ve not been picking up the ranking points so Malta is a big one, the main draw is where you want to be, that’s where the ranking points are.

“After Malta it’s Slovakia two weeks later and I’m already in the main draw for that with no qualifying games and that does make it a lot easier.

“Also I will be fresh for that opening match as opposed to having played four hours in the qualies. In terms of qualies it is brutal and there are a lot of big names in there.

“For me coming back from injury it’s almost like starting again, so I’m still trying to take it one step at a time and main draw in the Future Series events, then starting climbing to International tournaments and that is when I will really see a difference in my ranking.”

No Summer Holiday:

Projecting forward to the summer, Callum admits he is determined to turn up the heat as he bids to come back in peak condition.

He said: “I do have a couple of tournaments over summer but not that many, so I’m really going to knuckle down in training.

“I might look at going away to Denmark, or maybe even England, to hit with other players who are better than me.

“You learn more from guys at the level above, so what I’m doing now is about giving myself a base for next season.

“If I can string a few wins together and make main draws then next season I maybe won’t have to qualify, so these matches, and this one this week in particular, is vital to all of that.”