Kieran Merrilees is forced to fight for title

Kirsty Gilmour completed an emphatic win in the final. Picture: GettyKirsty Gilmour completed an emphatic win in the final. Picture: Getty
Kirsty Gilmour completed an emphatic win in the final. Picture: Getty
KIRSTY Gilmour and Kieran Merrilees both claimed their fourth Yonex Scottish National singles titles at the Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth yesterday, but the manner of the victories were in stark contrast.

While Commonwealth Games silver medallist Gilmour made it four in a row in emphatic style with a 21-7, 21-3 win over an ailing Holly Hewall, 
Merrilees scrambled over the line after three hard games against Matthew Carder. He had also needed a decider to get past Ben Torrance in the semi-final.

The big shock came in the men’s doubles, with Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh overcoming top seeds and 2013 champions Robert Blair and Gordon Thomson in straight games 21-18, 21-18.

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The other two finals went to plan. Gilmour and Imogen Bankier won the women’s doubles with lots to spare and Blair and Bankier, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallists, easily retained the mixed against the two promising teenagers, Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson.

For Merrilees, a fourth title in five years was what was expected. But the 25-year-old long-time Scottish No 1 was frank in his assessment after the edgy 21-16, 
10-21, 21-11 triumph over Carder. “I really didn’t enjoy this weekend and my main feeling is one of relief,” he said after completing the last of the five finals. “It’s all been very stressful and Ben and Matt both played very well.”

But after a disappointing end to 2014, the Commonwealth Games man is determined to change his outlook this year. “I had a poor result at the Scottish Grand Prix in November and I had a long think and decided to move back from Milton Keynes [the GB training centre] to Glasgow.

“I felt I just needed a change. After the Commonwealth Games, the motivation had slightly gone. But now I’m working really hard and my coach Yvette Yun Luo and I are now focussing on the next few months.”

Gilmour was overwhelming favourite to complete a double, but she acknowledged that such an elevated status bears its own particular pressures. “People underestimate how hard it is,” said the Glasgow-based 21-year-old. “There are a lot of up-and-coming players looking to make a name for themselves but I have a job to do.”

Newall, who also lost to Gilmour in the final last year, suffered from stomach pains in the second game, and it required a brief medical time out before she managed to resume and at least complete the match. For Campbell and MacHugh, the tense victory over Blair and Thomson was a dream come true and it was well deserved.

Campbell was particularly pleased to shrug off his National bridesmaid tag. “That was my fifth final and my first win so it was very special,” admitted the Edinburgh 24-year-old. “I’ve come to the championships since I was a little boy and it’s always been a goal to win a title. I got to my first final at 18 so it’s feels so good to get over the hurdle.

“It also means a lot to beat Robert when he is playing at the top of the game. He’s always been a guy I looked up to when he was touring the world and doing so well. Then he came back to Scotland and he’s been brilliant, a real inspiration. He helps us all so much in training.”

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Bankier continues to stack up the Championships. It was nine-in-a-row in the mixed and back-to-back with Blair. Hall, 18, and MacPherson, 17, are names for the future and they were far from disgraced but the top seeds got home 21-10, 21-13.

In the women’s doubles, Caitlin Pringle and Rebekka Finday were set the task of trying to dethrone Gilmour and Bankier. But the holders didn’t need too long to win 21-6, 21-4.

Glasgow’s Brian Casey, a qualified umpire for 31 years and father of Scottish international Alistair, was presented with the Derrick Roarty Award for outstanding services to badminton. It was a deserved reward before his retirement.

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