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Gilmour and Co court danger but ready to embrace challenge

The draws for next week's doubles events have fully vindicated the fight Badminton Scotland put up to get a full 10-player team into the Commonwealth Games, according to the team's manager.

ROAD TO GLORY: Kirsty Gilmour is now seeded second after the withdrawal of India's Saina Nehwal and Christine Black insists she can make the final. Picture: SNS
ROAD TO GLORY: Kirsty Gilmour is now seeded second after the withdrawal of India's Saina Nehwal and Christine Black insists she can make the final. Picture: SNS

In two of the events in which the Scots were seen as having their best chances of winning medals, they have been handed the toughest possible opening ties.

In the women's doubles Imogen Bankier and Kirsty Gilmour face the top English pair and competition fourth seeds Gabby Adcock and Lauren Smith, while in the mixed doubles Bankier and Robert Blair are in the same half of the draw as top seeds Adcock and husband Chris. They also must open against a highly dangerous Malaysian pairing.

Christine Black, the team's long-standing manager who competed at the 1986 Games in Edinburgh, understands the challenges her players will face over the course of the event and knows that it is consequently crucial that they are handled accordingly.

"It will be important to get things right," she said. "We've been pretty lucky with the draw in the team event having Seychelles and Guernsey so we can play and rest people which is really good ahead of the [likely pool-deciding] New Zealand game."

The battle the governing body fought with Commonwealth Games Scotland to get the team up to that full complement now gives Black room to manoeuvre when it comes to ensuring that their leading medal contenders are not overplayed.

"It is 11 days in a row so it is good to have that opportunity [to rest players], because we could have been faced with other teams against whom we might have struggled so we would have had to play our top players all the time. We have got options which has been really good," said the manager.

Of particular concern is minimising the workload on 21-year-old Gilmour, but at least she has been done a favour with last week's withdrawal due to injury of Saina Nehwal, India's defending champion, which elevated the Scot to second seeding.

Black believes that a mixture of relevant experiences when going into tournaments with similar expectation, at last year's Scottish Open Grand Prix where she reached the final but also at the European Championships where she made an unexpected early exit, will serve Gilmour well. "It's not beyond her to reach the final," said Black.

"I think she'll have learned from the Europeans. At her age when she had never been there before and Scotland having never taken a medal in the Europeans at singles, there was all that pressure, but she's gone through that now and this time she'll be able to embrace it slightly better and hopefully the crowd will be behind her.

"She's played in this hall and we've trained in there for three days so we've got used to it."

Having savoured her own involvement in Edinburgh, Black also believes the home crowd can now be all the more crucial to the Scots' chance of progress in the doubles events. "I can tell you if they [Bankier and Gilmour] take to the court and play doubles against the English girls that will be amazing and the English will not like that draw one bit," she said.

"They are not in a seeded position so they got the English pair first, but the English pair will feel under a lot of pressure as well, so it's a challenge. It will be tough because if they get through that they've then got a quality Singapore pair, but as Imo has said, when they play SuperSeries events they have to play hard matches from the start."

The team has survived a pre-competition injury scare after Paul van Rietvelde suffered a twisted ankle in training last week. "He went over on his ankle slightly in a practice match but he's back and playing today and everything's positive," said Black.

The Scots open the team competition against the Seychelles this morning and play their second tie this evening against Guernsey.

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