February

Seeds fall but Merrilees still on course in the Men’s Singles

Kieran Merrilees is still on course to win his third consecutive singles title and his seventh overall at the Yonex Scottish National Championships, being held this weekend at Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth.

The top seed and defending champion was ruthless in his progress, opening with a 21-4 21-9 defeat of James Leggate before beating Jordan Edgar 21-9 21-9 and Sameer Aamir 21-5 21-7 to reach the semi-finals on a day when many of the men’s singles seeds struggled.

Merrilees will face joint 3/4 seed Joshua Apiliga in the semi-final and speaking after today’s quarter-final he was full of praise for his next opponent:

“I played Josh in the first round last year and he caught me off guard” said Merrilees. “I was really impressed with him and I’m really excited to see his progress.

“Of course I want to win but at the same time I now have an eye on trying to develop the next guys coming through.

“I’m focussing a lot on coaching now, trying to help the younger guys.

“But I feel I’m playing just as well as I did before I stopped [training full time]. I feel good and I can just go out and enjoy it this year.”

It was a day of upsets in the men’s singles, with the first coming when joint 3/4 seed Callum Smith was ousted by unseeded veteran Mark MacKay in a highly entertaining three-end match which the Highlander won 21-23 21-17 21-16 in 47 minutes, one of the longest matches of the day.

Unseeded Aamir beat 5/8 seed Alastair Campbell on his way to playing Merrilees and in the bottom half of the draw 5/8 seed Matthew Carder knocked out second seed Christopher Grimley to reach the semi-finals.

Speaking afterwards Carder said: “It’s good to be back in the semi-finals. Nothing beats competing on the last day of the event.

“I think he [Grimley] was struggling with cramp today. It’s not the way I wanted to win, but I’ll take it.

“Ciar has improved a lot so he will be a tricky opponent, so I’ll just have to see what he brings and I’ll try my best tomorrow.”

Carder has reached the final every year since 2014 and won the title in 2016. If he wants to be in with a shot at lifting the trophy again tomorrow he will have to beat 5/8 seed Ciar Pringle in the semi-finals, who caused another of today’s upsets when he beat 3/4 seed Ben Torrance.

“I played quite consistently and my game plan was good” said Pringle. “I went out with a certain plan and I carried it out quite effectively.

“I’m looking forward to the semi-final. It’s my first one in the Nationals but I’ll approach it like I’ve approached every other match, with the same mind-set, the same warm-up and the same routine.”

In the women’s singles defending champion Kirsty Gilmour will play Julie MacPherson in tomorrow’s semi-final while in the bottom half of the draw Rachel Sugden plays Holly Newall after all four players sailed through their quarter-final matches with relative ease.

All four seeds progressed in the men’s doubles although Torrance and Steven Stewart were pushed all the way by Apiliga and Lloyd Holland.

Stewart and Torrance won 20-22 21-19 21-18 to set up a semi-final clash with second seeds Christopher and Matthew Grimley while top seeds Alex Dunn and Adam Hall will play Pringle and Jack MacGregor.

In the women’s doubles Gilmour and Basia Grodynska beat Lauren Middleton and Sarah Sidebottom 16-21 21-19 21-12 to set up a semi-final clash against Julie MacPherson and Holly Newall after the top seeds beat Shona MacKay and Erin Waddell.

Second seeds Eleanor O’Donnell and Ciara Torrance will play Alice Campbell and Sugden in the second semi-final.

Play gets underway at 10.00 hrs on Sunday 3 February with semi-final action in men’s and women’s singles and doubles. The finals will be played on two courts from 14.00hrs.

Tickets are available on the door at Bell’s Sports Centre.

The Yonex Scottish National Championships are being staged at Bell’s Sports Centre, Perth, from 1-3 February 2019 with support from Perth and Kinross Council, Live Active Leisure and the Perth Common Good Fund.

Full results, schedules and draws are at www.tournamentsoftware.com