Kirsty Gilmour’s return to competitive action went better than she expected when she and Patrick MacHugh shocked the top seeds in Perth last night to reach the final of the mixed doubles at the Yonex Scottish National Badminton Championships.
On her first competitive outing since the Olympics in Rio Gilmour, who underwent knee surgery in the autumn, she admitted to surprise following their 21-12,16-21,21-18 victory over Adam Hall and Eleanor O’Donnell which means she now has a chance to complete a full set of titles at the championships having won the women’s singles for the last five years and the women’s doubles with three different partners in each of the last four.
However Gilmour reckoned unorthodoxy had seen them through what was a hard fought and at times rather scrappy semi-final.
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“Lo and behold, here we are in a mixed final. I had some aims and goals for the mixed to cement some little skills that’ll help me in my singles and for the most part we tried a lot of things out,” she said.
“We started with real mixed style at the start in our first match and we did not feel comfortable with that, so we switched to me standing behind him when he’s serving because neither of us are comfortable with me crouching in front and him doing the traditional serve from further back.
“I think confusion tactics came into play because Adam and Eleanor are a strong, traditional mixed pair but with the rotations Paddy and I were doing perhaps the gaps that would normally be there weren’t.”
In their quarter-final they had beaten brother and sister Caitlin and Ciar Pringle 21-17, 22-20 after Gilmour’s return to action had been delayed by an extra 90 minutes or so when they found themselves through to the quarter-finals without having to play their scheduled opening tie.
They had been due to face Rebekka Findlay and Alex Dunn, who is top seeded with Adam Hall in the men’s doubles and is also taking part in the men’s singles, both of which get underway today, as do the women’s singles and doubles. However Dunn is suffering from a niggling back problem so felt he could not afford to risk playing in all three disciplines.
Gilmour’s freedom of movement around the court meanwhile demonstrated to on-lookers that she is fully physically fit, but that had not been a concern from her perspective.
“Moving around wasn’t an issue. My objectives this weekend are nothing physical, it’s more just mentally getting back into competing,” Gilmour explained.
“I think I’ve managed to smooth out the little jittery serves. That gets tested when you’ve got a man hanging over the net. So to get those nerves ironed out was good.”
However she did admit to feeling her age, noting with a laugh: “I’m the oldest lady in singles by a good few years.”
They will now meet second seeds Martin Campbell and Julie Macpherson who edged out teenagers Christopher Grimley and Ciara Torrance 17-21, 21-18 and 22-20 after saving a match point in the second semi-final.
Gilmour, who is also, according to the seedings, expected to meet Macpherson in the women’s singles final, must negotiate just one more match today to ensure involvement in two events on finals day tomorrow since she has a bye into the quarter-finals of the singles and the semi-finals of all four of the other events take place tomorrow morning.
Today’s men’s singles champion meanwhile sees another top seed making a comeback as Kieran Merrilees aims to reclaim the title after missing last year’s championships through injury, defending champion Matthew Carder coming in as second seed.
Findlay, who won the women’s doubles with Gilmour last year, is top seeded in that event this time around with Caitlin Pringle at a competition that has been given an extra edge by the presence of Tat Meng Wong, Badminton Scotland’s head coach, who arrived in the country only this week, later than originally scheduled due to some issues regarding his visa.
“As soon as my visa came through I wanted to get here as quickly as possible because I knew this was a very good opportunity to see the players,” said the Malaysian.