SCOTLAND'S badminton players have their first chance to stake a claim for a place in the team for the Commonwealth Games this weekend, when the Scottish National Championships take place in Perth.

There are a few who can be all but sure of selection, even at this early stage. In the singles events, Keiran Merrilees and Kirsty Gilmour are so far ahead of the rest of the field in their respective disciplines that, barring injury, they will most certainly be competing in Glasgow next year.

Merrilees is absent this weekend through injury, but Gilmour, from Bothwell, is seeded to retain the women's singles title and to win the doubles with Jillie Cooper, from Edinburgh, who has been champion three times previously.

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The real intrigue centres on the mixed and men's doubles events. Robert Blair is on the hunt for his maiden Scottish senior title following his repatriation from England two years ago.

He is seeded to win the mixed doubles title with Cooper, but they will have to wrest it from Imogen Bankier, who has won it for the past six years and has a World Championship mixed doubles silver medal under her belt from 2011.

Bankier partners Watson Briggs, from Renfrew, and her biggest hurdle lies in the fact the standard of the male player in the partnership is often the deciding factor.

Unfortunately for Bankier, Blair may prove just too good to allow her to impose her vast experience, should both pairs reach the final.

The men's doubles is the most open event and needs one pairing to grab it by the scruff of the neck to steal a march in the race for 2014 selection. The problem is that established Scottish partnerships are few and far between, but Blair's class may well prevail once more, despite his third-place seeding with partner Gordon Thomson.

The National Championships are always a strange experience as you compete against players you train with day-in, day-out. The players who show the most bottle are often the ones who are most successful.

BADMINTON Championships kick off race for 2014 selection, writes Susan Egelstaff