Badminton: Nathan Robertson previews National League Finals Day

Nathan Robertson (left) and Gail Emms
Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms won mixed doubles silver at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens

The first season of the National Badminton League culminates with Finals Day at the K2 in Crawley on Sunday when four teams battle it out for the title.

Surrey Smashers finished top of the six teams competing in the first-ever professional league and they face Loughborough Sport in the first semi-final at 1100 BST.

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Emms hopes NBL provides inspiration

The other last-four tie sees Team Derby, including 2004 Olympic silver medallist Gail Emms, take on Nottingham Badminton, with the Championship final following at 1500 BST.

BBC Sport and former Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson takes a look at the sides hoping to become the inaugural NBL champions.

"The season has been a huge success," Robertson told BBC Sport. "It's had good crowds, with some sell-outs and it's been competitive and exciting.

"We've had the best players in the UK and lots of future stars and it will be even more exciting on Sunday when we get to the knockout stages and there is even more to play for."

Fast-paced and thrilling: badminton in short form
NBL games are played to a first to nine points rally scoring system. In each of the five events which are played to best-of-five games in a regular match-night fixture - the first four games are played to first to nine with no extended scoring or need for a clear winning margin.

Surrey Smashers

Surrey won four and lost just won of their five games, including a convincing 5-0 win over second-placed Derby in January.

Coach Hayley Adcock told BBC Surrey:

"It's been a fantastic season. It's been an absolutely brilliant first year. We're going in confident. Against Loughborough, it will be especially hard.

"There's a possibility that we're going in as favourites, in terms of (having) finished top of the league, but I think the teams are very capable of beating each other, so it's going to be an interesting finals weekend."

Stars

Captain Chris Langridge was a Commonwealth doubles silver and bronze medallist, from Glasgow 2014, but Gabby Adcock misses out as she and husband Chris - who represents Nottingham - will not return from the Indonesian Open in time.

Chris Adcock (right) and Gabby Adcock
Chris Adcock and wife Gabby are competing in Indonesia and will miss out on Finals Day
Expert view
"Having had a great regular season they will be favourites for many but looking at the teamsheets, most sides are missing one or two so I think it will be ever so tight. I don't see definite favourites."

Team Derby

Derby lost their opening fixture to Birmingham, but their only other loss came at the hands of league winners Surrey.

Coach Donna Kellogg told BBC Radio Derby:

"It took a little bit of time to get used to the format, but I think the players have got used to it now and quite enjoy it.

"It's fantastic for us to be in the first ever finals weekend. We've come a long way from setting up the whole league in May 2014. We've had great crowds. It's exciting that we have a really good chance of winning on Sunday."

Stars

Rajiv Ouseph is England's number one men's singles player. He won seven national titles in a row from 2008-2014 and won a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Olympic silver medallist Gail Emms will line up in the mixed doubles.

Rajiv Ouseph
Rajiv Ouseph has been ranked as high as 11th in the world in singles
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"They had a slow start losing their first three, but they were all away and when they played at home at the Derby Velodrome they looked really strong, winning 5-0 and 4-1. They are the form team but have a couple of injuries to deal with for Donna Kellogg and Kate Robertshaw."

Loughborough Sport

Loughborough were one of four teams to finish with a won two/lost three record but won more events than they lost and an impressive 4-1 success over Milton Keynes that earned their Finals berth on the final night showed they can play when the pressure is on.

Henri Hurskainen, who won all four of his NBL singles matches:

"This is the best league I've ever played in. It's very exciting and there's stuff going on all the time. It's very good for the sport.

"I didn't really think about it [100% record]. I just tried to win every game. The most important thing is that the team was winning."

Stars

Swede Henri Hurskainen took part in the 2012 Olympics and won a European Championship silver medal in 2012. England's Jenny Wallwork is a double Commonwealth Games medallist and five-time national title winner.

Henri Hurskainen
Henri Hurskainen is part of the Loughborough side hoping to cause an upset on Sunday
Expert view
"Loughborough could go into this with the most confidence, Their squad is probably the least affected by missing players. Harley Towler is injured but they had a good win to make the finals and could go well."

Nottingham Badminton

Nottingham, like Derby finished with a won two/lost three record but they showed their quality with a crushing 4-1 victory over Surrey Smashers on Match-night 5 in March.

Coach Martyn Lewis:

"The NBL is something that the UK has needed for a hell of a long time and to actually be part of setting it all up has been great. A lot of people are talking about it.

"Sure there's some that are sceptical and there's always the old school way of thinking. But the NBL is attracting a new crowd, viewing figures have been great and it's brilliant to see some exciting badminton.

"We're only in this to win it, we're not here to make up the numbers and we can come away with the trophy."

Stars

Olga Konon, who represented Belarus at the 2008 Olympics and is now a German international, is in the side, as is Scottish doubles specialist Rob Blair. But Nottingham will have to do without captain Chris Adcock.

Expert view
"They were the only team to beat Surrey in the regular season but were well beaten by Derby in the final match and will be without Chris Adcock, which is a big blow."

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