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Badminton: Gilmour left to fly flag as Merrilees falls short again

The Emirates Arena is a new venue for these championships and, when you consider the age of the national team, it is a new era for Scottish badminton.

Kirsty Gilmour is the sole Scottish singles survivor. Picture: SNS
Kirsty Gilmour is the sole Scottish singles survivor. Picture: SNS

There remains consider-able work to be done, though, if Scotland are to become a force on the European stage. With the tournament hotting up – the quarter-finals and semi-finals are played today – only one Scottish singles player is still standing. Kirsty Gilmour has recently become the Scottish No.1 women's singles player, and is the sole survivor in the singles draws.

She posted two comfortable straight-sets wins yesterday; against England's Georgina Bland and the Frenchwoman Perrine Le Buhanic, but will face much stiffer competition in the quarter-finals this morning when she faces the 14th seed, Olga Konon, who was born in Belarus and is now representing Germany, via a stint in Poland. She has had a rocky career to date: impressive results interspersed with serious injury problems. On the comeback trail from her latest injury setback – this time from knee surgery – she is always a formidable competitor.

If Gilmour could record a win, it would extend her impressive start to the season, which has included tournament victories in Switzerland, Czech Republic and Poland.

Women's singles in Europe is going through something of a changing of the guard post-Olympics. Several of the big guns have retired in the immediate aftermath of the Games, or are approaching retirement in the next year or so. The discipline is significantly more physical than it was a decade ago, and the fact that Gilmour's physicality and agility are her main attributes will stand her in good stead.

Disappointingly, Keiran Merrilees displayed more of his trademark inconsistency yesterday. An impressive win in the second round against the Dane Rasmus Fladberg was followed by a 21-13, 21-17 loss to Germany's Lukas Schmidt, a player he certainly has the ability to beat.

It was another example of him throwing away a golden opportunity. His victory over the No.8 seed on Thursday opened up his section of the draw but he needs to develop a more robust game than he possesses at the moment. The 22-year-old has almost every attribute required to succeed but he struggles to string together solid wins. He must learn that not every match needs to be won in crowd-pleasing fashion; he must develop an ability to grind out victories and learn to win ugly on a more regular basis.

The fact that Gilmour and Merrilees were the only Scottish representatives in the singles draw to survive the first-round remains a worry. Badminton Scotland have ambitious development programmes in place for the next generation of players – they are focusing on the 12- and-under age-group – and it surely is a concern that there is such a gaping chasm between the top players in the country and those below.

It looks to be an irretrievable situation in the short-term, though, and it may be a decade or so before Scotland are able to boast several representatives in the latter stages of a singles event on the European circuit.

In the mixed doubles, Robert Blair and Jillie Cooper moved smoothly into today's quarter-finals. Two comfortable victories yesterday indicate that the pair are ready to make their mark on the tournament.

Both have won the title in previous years, although not together, so a victory this weekend would be a significant step forward in their development as a pairing.

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