Rachel Has Nothing To Lose Ahead Of Meeting With Legend Marin

By RJ Mitchell

IT may be a daunting prospect to face the six-time European Champion, former Olympic, three-time World Champion and ex-World No.1 but Rachel Sugden says she can’t wait for her match-up with Carolina Marin tomorrow.

The Scottish champion will take to the court at the Saarlandhalle determined to enjoy her meeting with a true legend of the sport when she makes her European Championship debut in Germany.

While the list of credits on Marin’s ‘ring record’ are endlessly impressive, Rachel is determined to focus on her game and take everything she can from a unique experience that any young singles player should relish.

Looking forward to her second round with the Spanish great, the Scottish champion said: “I have nothing to lose so I am looking forward to enjoying the experience, playing freely, and making the most of the fact there is no pressure on me.

“Carolina is No.1 seed and all the pressure is on her, so I just need to concentrate on producing my best game and see how that measures up to her.

“Carolina has been a player I have watched for a long time and I really enjoy the way she plays so it will be interesting to experience it from the other side of the court.

“But she has been on really good form recently having won the All England and you have to say she is one of the best ever female singles players, so it will definitely be a tall order!

“Her record is very impressive, she was Olympic champion in Rio in 2016, won her first All England nine years ago and has come back from two ACL injuries and is still performing at that level.

“It’s incredible really.”

The Match-Up:

Not surprisingly Rachel has done a fair bit of video analysis on the All England Champion and admits that when it comes to the strength of her opponent’s game Marin has it all.

Reflecting on this Rachel said: “Carolina is an attacking player and is very fast and she doesn’t like to give her opponent any time or breathing space.

“She is also very sassy on court. I think anyone who has seen her play will agree with me there!

“But I’d say her overhead attacking strokes are probably the strongest part of her game and her overall speed.”

Upsetting Carolina:

The big question then is does Rachel think she can hurt the Spanish legend? “I think my overhead attack can give her problems and it will be interesting to see how that can work out but she is an absolute legend and I’m just really looking forward to it,” smiled Rachel.

The Scottish champion continued: “So I need to get on the attack myself and not give her too much time as that will allow her to do what she is best at and just boss the rallies.

“So I need to be quick and take the initiative as soon as I can in the rallies.”

 European Debut:

Tomorrow will mark Rachel’s European Championship debut and she admits her appearance at the Saarlandhalle was a big target of her competitive year: “This is the first time I’ve qualified for the Europeans and this was a big goal for me so having done that I was really pleased.

“Now I need to get my ranking up even higher to continue competing at these events and maybe even challenge for medals as well.

“But this is about getting as much as I can from the experience and then using that going forward.”

A Busy Build-Up:

Amazingly Rachel will be back at University next week to sit exams as she studies to complete a degree in Mechanical Engineering but all of that has been pushed to the back of her mind to maintain maximum focus on tomorrow’s tussle.

She admitted: “I have had a good spell in training but also been busy at Uni with assessments and then exams coming up the week after the Europeans.

“But all of that has been put to one side for now. I’ve been playing well recently in training and I just want to reflect that with my performance at the Europeans and then use that to build on going into the next few tournaments I have.

“Then over the summer I am looking to have a good training block without the stress of Uni exams hovering over me!

“Hopefully I am going to play the Finnish Open and then there are a couple more tournaments towards the summer with maybe Slovenia and Austria in there.”

However as Rachel revealed her build-up to Saarbrucken has not been without its troubles after a flu virus swept through the Scottish singles squad last month.

Fortunately now the Scottish champion is good to go and she shared: “In January I was in Estonia and then the Scottish Nationals and it was great to win the title again and also play well.

“Then I was at the Dutch Open where I played well but I was quite sick while I was away and not able to perform at my best level.

“That was really disappointing as I had quite a good opportunity to maybe make a quarter-final with the draw I had.

“There was a bit of a virus sweeping through the singles squad and Angus (Meldrum) was terrible and David (Gilmour) was unwell but the few days I was out there I had a fever; no appetite and it just wasn’t the best condition to play a badminton tournament in.

“Thankfully I’ve had a good month since then and my preparation has been solid and tomorrow hopefully all that hard work will be worth it with my performance.”