After a month of trotting across the British Isles, taking in Scotland, Wales and then Ireland, badminton takes the trip to Turkey for the final International Series event of the 2012 season. Former Olympian and Commonwealth Games silver medallist for Scotland Robert Blair will be hoping to end the year with a much-deserved win.
On the European Circuit, Blair has reached the last 8 of the men’s doubles competition with Malaysian Bin Shen Tan on the last three occasions, including a win in the Babolat Bulgarian International and a march to the semis in Ireland. His form with Jillie Cooper, his Scottish compatriot, has been equally good, with a further semi-final in Bulgaria to celebrate.
Thing is, Robert Blair seems to be one of several British players that are pretty good in the second tier, but greatly struggle in the SuperSeries. Blair and Tan lie 97th in the world rankings, better than most of the opposition he faces. Yet, in the Denmark Open, he and Koen Ridder of the Netherlands failed to qualify for the main draw. What is a man to do?
The Turkiye International is a great opportunity to notch up another win for the pair. They have been seeded fourth in the men’s double event and have a bye to the last 16, where they are likely to face the German/Indonesian pair of Jones Rafli Jansen and Indra Viki Okvana. Should they progress, Blair may be separated from the other seeds by a tough challenge against home hopefuls Ozturk and Vural.
Fellow home representation comes from England’s Andrew Smith, seeded fourth in the men’s singles event. Smith won the Slovenian International earlier in the year and reached the semis in both Switzerland and Iceland. Only a recent blip where he was stopped early in Wales by Kieran Merrilees is stopping him from being an obvious trophy contender. Hoping to join him after qualification are Sean Vendy, who Smith knocked out in Iceland, Daniel Groom, Jamie Bonsels and Robert Kettle, who has failed to progress past the first round of his last three competitions.
Groom is unlikely to reach the main draw, but will get another chance in the mixed doubles with Sinead Chambers, who reached the final of the Irish Futures singles event and won the women’s doubles. She can also point to a semi-final finish in Iceland. One stumbling block is that this appears to be Groom’s first major mixed doubles encounter in 2012.
Sarah Bok and Suzanne Rayappan take part in the women’s doubles but face a stern test against the Austrian third seeds.