Evans powers up to career high ranking

by Stephen Findlater

SCOTT Evans broke new ground at last week’s $120,000 Bitburger Open in Germany, reaching his first Grand Prix Gold final on the badminton circuit, but admits to mixed feelings having missed out on the title.
The Ballinteer man fell to Taiwan’s world number eight Tien Chen Chou in the decider, but moved up to a career high of number 33 as his excellent year continues.
Indeed, this was the first time he had gone beyond the quarter-finals of a Gold event – second only in stature to the Super Series – on the world circuit and follows quickly on from his Brazil Grand Prix victory.
In the final, though, he said he was never allowed find a “good rhythm” against his illustrious opponent.
“You won’t be let off lightly if your quality is not good. I was obviously very disappointed after the final and was left with mixed emotions after an amazing week.
“Of course, I am happy to get to my first grand prix Gold event. It is big but to not give myself a chance at the title, it is hard to accept.”
After two tough opening round wins against Sweden’s Gabriel Ulldahl and the Netherlands’ Erik Meijs, the draw opened up somewhat when the higher ranked Marc Zweibler – the seven-time German champion – was knocked out.
“I knew when [Zweibler] went out, it opened up opportunities.”
In his stead, Hong Kong’s Chan Yan Kit advanced, a former top-level pro who was just back from a sabbatical. Evans swept him aside 21-12, 21-13 and duly played a fine game against Poland’s Adrian Dziolko – another surprise opponent who had eliminated the tournament’s number two seed in a “crazy match” that lasted well over an hour.
Evans used this to his advantage, keeping up an aggressive game-plan to win comfortably. Despite having surpassed his previous Gold best and admitting to plenty of nerves, he overcame India’s HS Prannoy in the semi-final 21-16, 21-10 to move on to the final.
“I knew Prannoy was going to be tired. He’s still a good player but I knew my tactics – to be aggressive and keep the pace high. I knew if I could do that, he would struggle because of his tough match the day before.
“I kept at him and pushed the pace and won comfortably in two sets.”
It put him into the final where his plans shifted but the Taiwanese Chen Chou, who was in the midst of a run of 14-days of consecutive matches, was able to keep the points short and dictate the pace.
“I needed to be more patient but I couldn’t seem to get any rallies going. Either he made a mistake or the quality in my strokes wasn’t good enough and he finished the rally.
“We never had any long rallies going even though I knew he would struggle in a longer match. The longer the match went on, the better chance I would have of landing the title.”
Nonetheless, from initial goals of reaching the third round in the competition, it marks a landmark week in his career as he took full advantage of the chances afforded to him.
“In the past, when I have had that opportunity, almost every time, I have blown it. On that side, I was happy to come through and perform, taking my chance to get through to the final.”
He moves up to number 33 in the world and is now close to reaching the top 30, a place where he could receive direct entry into the elite Super Series events, something that would have him playing top opposition week in week out.
“It’s a huge bonus; it means your lowest points on the ranking list are suddenly very high. They say in badminton, once you get into the Super Series, it is almost harder to get out of it. From there, you can win just a couple of games a year to retain that status. Of course, I would be hoping to be much better than that and continue to stay in that position. So the aim is top 30 now.”

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