• English National Badminton Championships  • 05-07 Feb 2010 •  

[ Robertson ] Clark ] Cann ] Ouseph ] Wallwork ]
Nationals Previews #1: Nathan Robertson

Richard Eaton reports

When you've played in the nationals for a decade and a half, and your aim is one last success at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, some people would suggest that it's a bit unfocussed to spend time and energy on the domestic scene.

But off-the-wall qualities are one of the reasons why Robertson's persona has its hint of unpredictable charisma, and his badminton its touch of genius.

Even though he has won world, All-England, Commonwealth, and European titles, and come within a tantalising handful of points of an Olympic gold medal, Robertson spoke pleasurably about the English national championships.

There is encouraging progress in his year-old partnership with Jenny Wallwork, he says, and certainly their top seeding suggests that she can help him add to his tally of eleven national titles. That is a prospect of some fascination, given Wallwork's burden of comparisons with Robertson's former partner, the ultra-successful Gail Emms.

“We have definite targets, me and Jenny, and they are the bigger international tournaments – the All-England, the Commonwealth Games – and the nationals isn't right up there on our priority list,” Robertson began, rather forthrightly. “They're something you see as important when you are young and don't have national titles.

Then he seemed to see another side to it. “Turning up after all these years, it is a good chance to play in front of the English public, with everything sold out. Where there are titles to be won, people will want to win, including me.

“And it's still a great feeling to win at the end of the tournament, but we have higher priorities. We are there to win, definitely. At the end of your career to have ten or 15 national titles is fantastic.”

Wallwork admitted that playing with Robertson at first made her nervous, and feels she suffered a drop in her standard. But now she thinks differently, that the partnership is going well. Did Robertson feel likewise?

“I don't think her standard dropped,” he said, sounding slightly surprised. “It was a big change for her, and for me, and I think it is unrealistic to have high expectations when you are suddenly put in competition against the best players in the world. It takes time, and there is no quick way to the top in this game.”

She is, he is sure, a better player now than then. “She has improved her physical condition. She is quicker and faster on court,” Robertson said.

“She has also developed mixed doubles areas, where there are certain areas you cover around each other, and don't have any gaps on the court. It's sometimes easy for a girl to hide but we want to be moving around each other, so not covering the same area.

“Jenny has definitely developed in the last year. She has stamped her authority on mixed doubles. We are a lot more confident as a pair and the way we play we can trouble top pairs.”

Robertson's and Wallwork's nearest rivals, the seedings say, are Anthony Clark, a winner of this title for the last three years with Donna Kellogg, and his new partner, the fleet-footed Heather Olver.

Clark, who is Robertson's friend and men's doubles partner, is in a similar position to Robertson a year or so ago, taking on a younger partner in the mixed doubles.

But there will be another threat - Chris Adcock and Gabby White, currently England's top-ranked mixed doubles pair at 20 in the world, who will see this as a chance to get the better of the two most famous names in English badminton.

Robertson will be a stronger favourite in the men's doubles. He and Clark beat the Olympic champions Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan to win the Super Series title in Singapore and at their best are clearly better than any other pair in this country.

But that best doesn't always happen. Robertson and Clark were beaten by Robert Blair and Chris Adcock in the Denmark Open in October – a result which created quite a stir, given the friction which had become public between Robertson and Blair, his former partner, earlier in the year.

Robertson now phrased the situation delicately. “I would say there is a slight gap in standard from Anthony and myself, and Robert and Chris, who are above other players,” he said. “We have young boys who are developing and all of them have got their best years ahead of them. Hopefully they will make it.”

Hopefully so. But meanwhile a final with a bit of edge between partners-turned-adversaries is what many people will want to see.

[ Robertson ] Clark ] Cann ] Ouseph ] Wallwork ]


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