Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier, two players expected to play a key part in Scotland’s Commonwealth Games badminton challenge next summer, head for Ukraine today to tackle the Babolat Kharkov International.
The two former world silver medallists start Commonwealth Games season by teaming up for the mixed doubles where they are third seeds.
The Scottish pair have a first-round bye and can expect to face England’s Matthew Nottingham and Emily Westwood on Friday evening. The top seeds are Sweden’s Nico Ruponen and Amanda Hogstrom.
Blair and Bankier won the French International title last season and were also unbeaten in Scotland’s successful Sudirman Cup campaign when they defeated Ruponen and Hogstrom 21-16 21-16 in the match with Sweden – one of Scotland’s four victories on the way to topping Group 2.
Bankier is also in women’s doubles action and is the No. 4 seed with Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva. They start with a first-round bye before they can expect to face Russia’s Elena Komendrovskaja and Maria Shegurova if they beat qualifiers in the first round.
The big obstacle in Bankier’s half is the top-seeded French pair of Audrey Fontaine and Emilie Lefel.
Scotland’s top men’s singles player Kieran Merrilees is also in action in Kharkov. In the first round he will take on a qualifier – possibly second qualifying seed Artem Pochtarev - and if he wins his opening contest the Glasgow player will take on France’s second seed Brice Leverdez or Ukraine’s Vitaly Konov.
All three Glasgow players will use the Kharkov event as the springboard in the countdown to the Scottish Open Grand Prix in November at the Emirates Arena, the Commonwealth Games venue for badminton.
To follow the Kharkov results and schedules check out www.tournamentsoftware.com