STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
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
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
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
“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
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
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