Kirsty Gilmour and Imogen Bankier look to add to Scottish titles

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Interview: Kirsty Gilmour

Kirsty Gilmour heads to Perth for the Scottish National Championships this weekend looking to defend her badminton singles and doubles titles.

The 20-year-old from Bothwell won two weeks ago, adding to a recent tournament win at the Czech International and runner-up spots in the and

Gilmour told BBC Scotland: "I'm going for the hat-trick of Scottish (singles) titles.

"I'm really quite excited. The National is always quite a big event and I think this year is going to be a really good standard."

Scotland head coach Yvette Yum Luo has been sharpening Gilmour's game at the sport's national centre in Scotstoun in Glasgow.

Of her most recent title win, Gilmour said: "Sweden was really good.

"I'm not feeling particularly fit at the moment so winning tournaments when I'm not particularly fit is a good place to be."

She is a medal contender for Team Scotland at this summer's Commonwealth Games.

Ranked 22nd in the world, she is currently rated the fourth-best player in the Commonwealth and is the third-highest ranked in Europe.

Last year in Perth she not only took the singles title but added the women's doubles, too, with Edinburgh's Jillie Cooper.

Standing in her way on Saturday could be 16-year-old Sarah Findlay from Erskine, but the challenger will first have to get past Glasgow's Frances Heslop.

Interview: Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair

In the women's doubles, Gilmour and Glasgow's Imogen Bankier are the top seeds - they will face Findlay and Falkirk's Toni Woods in the second round, if that pairing overcome Lynne from Prestwick and Darvel's Kirsten Thomsen.

Second seeds Cooper and Sarah Bok could meet Findlay's sister Rebekka and her partner Caitlin Pringle (Glasgow) in the semi-finals.

But first Findlay and Pringle must overcome the winner of the match between Motherwell twins Hannah and Sophie Morrison and Julie MacPherson (Edinburgh) and Eleanor O'Donnell (Beith).

The tournament at Bell's Sports Centre will be the last chance to see Scotland's top players in action at home before this summer's Games.

The Scotland squad has reason to approach that event with confidence, having risen to 18 in the world rankings and fifth among Commonwealth nations, behind Malaysia (7), Singapore (11), India (13) and England (15).

This time last year Scotland were ranked 32nd.

The rise in the rankings can largely be attributed to the Scots' performance at last May's Sudirman Cup World Mixed Team Championships and some impressive individual performances from the likes of Gilmour, Bankier and her mixed doubles partner Robert Blair.

Blair and Bankier, the latter a former world silver medallist, won the mixed doubles at the Scottish Open Grand Prix, Kharkov International, Bulgarian International, and, like Gilmour, the Swedish Masters.

Bankier also won women's doubles with Bulgaria's Petya Nedelcheva at the Czech International, where they beat Gilmour and Cooper in the final, the Belgian International and Kharkov International while Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh won men's doubles at the Bulgarian International and Iceland Internationals.

In Perth at the weekend Blair and Bankier are favourites as the latter seeks an eighth consecutive title.

Paul Van Rietvelde, who won three years ago with Bankier, will partner Cooper and they are expected to come through to the final from the bottom half of the draw.

In the men's singles, Glasgow's two-time former champion Kieran Merrilees may have to overcome two other past winners if he is to win the tournament again.

Merrilees has a first-round bye and is likely to face joint third seed and two-time champion Gordon Thomson (Glasgow) or three-time winner Craig Goddard (East Kilbride) in the semi-finals.

In the men's doubles Matthew Duguid (Stonehaven) and Robert Dunn (Motherwell) have the first crack at top seeds Van Rietvelde (Longniddry) and Blair (Glasgow) in the second round.

Joint third seeds Neil and Torrance start with a second-round test against Crieff's Niall Jarvie and David Purdie from Largs and may have to overcome a tricky third round match against Thomson and Mauchline's Adam Hall if they want to face Van Rietvelde and Blair in the semi-finals.

Edinburgh's Martin Campbell could meet his brother, Michael, if the two pairs reach the quarter-finals.

That will happen if second seeds Campbell and MacHugh beat Edinburgh pair Alistair Gordon and Tommy Reynolds and Michael Campbell and South Queensferry's Matthew Carder defeat Thomas Coughlin (Islay) and David Delday (Orkney).

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