Commonwealth Games: Blair and Bankier battle on

Kirsty Gilmour in action during her singles match against Australia. Picture: Lorraine Hill
Kirsty Gilmour in action during her singles match against Australia. Picture: Lorraine Hill
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IT TOOK little more than a light training session for Kirsty Gilmour and Kieran Merrilees to reach the last 16 of the singles but Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier had to fight mightily hard to keep their mixed doubles medal credentials intact at The Emirates Arena.

In the men’s doubles, the Scots easily dismissed Maldives’ opposition. Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh made it into the last 16 with a 21-11, 21-7 victory over Ajfan Rasheed and Nasheeu Sharafuddeen, while Blair and Paul Van Rietvelde overwhelmed Mohammed Sarim and Hussein Kaki 21-7, 21-6. Blair and Bankier, the mixed doubles No 3 seeds, are two wily campaigners with a huge amount of experience and they needed to show it against Malaysia’s Wie Shem Goh and Loo Yin Lim, a new partnership and therefore something of an unknown quantity.

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One thing was for sure, they had to be good to make the line-up in a Malaysian squad that won the team gold medal and they dominated the first game taking it 21-15 before Blair and Bankier really had time to settle.

But then came the fightback by two players who have won silver medals in doubles at world championships, although not together, and have also played in the Olympics. They edged ahead in the second at 3-2 and then struck a great patch, winning five out of six points to move 18-11 ahead and they went on to level the match 21-14.

With confidence soaring and the Saltire-waving crowd behind them, Blair and Bankier were roared on to a morale-boosting 15-21, 21-14, 21-14 victory and they now should have an easier last 16 match against Singapore’s Terry Hee and Mingtian Fu.

“We knew that Goh was a good player but she was also no slouch,” said Bankier. “We tried to nullify his strength and did well to turn it round. The crowd was fantastic. I couldn’t believe how much they got behind us even when we were behind and there was an amazing amount of noise.”

Blair admitted that he had been a bit irked by the draw. “It was disappointing because we knew they are good enough to win the gold. In fact, it is probably the hardest game until we get to the very late stages.”

Gilmour and Merrilees were far luckier with the draw and both eased through with no problem. It should be the same today for the two Scottish Champions, Gilmour taking on Yeldy Louison from Mauritius and Merrilees facing Northern Ireland’s Tony Murphy.

Gilmour, the No 2 seed who had a bye in the first round, opened her medal bid with a 21-14, 21-5 win over Australia’s Verdet Kessler and she admitted she had been inspired by a trip to Glasgow on her rest day.

Desperately disappointed to lose to Malaysia’s Jing Wi Tee in the team quarter-final on Friday, she had taken the chance to chill with time away from the Village. “I went into Glasgow and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the Bothwell 20-year-old. “The Games has brought everyone together because everyone has got to like something that’s on show.”

A 21-6, 21-7 win by Merrilees over Kenya’s big lad Victor Mungo was a trip down memory lane. “We actually played each other in the early rounds in Delhi four years ago,” said the Glasgow 24-year-old. “He’s a big gentle giant.

“I was actually a bit tired today because I’ve been training hard to make sure I’m ready for the tougher rounds. My coach, Yvette Yun Guo, wants me to keep up the intensity when the matches aren’t quite so tough

“I’m thoroughly enjoying playing in front of a Glasgow crowd and I’m not feeling too much pressure. I know I have put in the hard work and so I’m just really looking forward to whatever lies ahead.

“It’s good to have got through the first two rounds and what I really want is to make the quarter-finals and hopefully have a match against (England’s) Raj Ouseph. He’s my training partner at Milton Keynes and we’re good friends. I’ve never beaten him but we’ve had a lot of close matches.”


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