Europe’s Future in Women’s Singles.

Posted: October 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Over the course of the last 18 months the discipline that has interested me most has been women’s singles. The reasons for this are pretty simple to explain. There is a new wave of young and exciting talent starting to bubble to the top in Europe.

We are all fully aware of the emergence of players like Carolina Marin of Spain after she claimed the European Junior title back in 2011. Marin was winning senior tournaments as far back as 2009 when she lifted the Irish International and while Marin was winning easy in Finland there were a handful of players in that very same tournament that I believed failed to realise their own true potential.

I think that Marin’s attention to detail, work ethic and will to win may have served to spur the rest on as all of a sudden a handful of the class of 2011 have come out on tour with all guns blazing and are taking the European circuit by storm.

Let’s have a look at 5 of these players and examine their careers to date, their strengths and weaknesses and their prospects for the future.

Bow Before Yigit

NESLIHAN YIGIT (Turkey): The tall 18 year old Turk has blossomed over the course of the past 9 months and her world ranking of 37 hints to that progression having been outside the world’s top 100 less than 12 months ago.

If Yigit was a footballer she would be a central midfielder as one of her key strengths his her deceptively consistent engine that keeps her going point after point and set after set. Over the course of the last year many a player has been lured into a false sense of security thinking they had the Turk beaten after an easy first set win only to lose in three. Her reach and net play have also served the Turk well and mentally nothing fazes Yigit.

Her weakness is certainly her consistent failure to start games at the level needed to compete at the highest level. So many times I have seen her trail 11-3 or 11-2 in an opening game and we all know there are not many who can come back from that deficit in modern badminton. Much of this we can certainly attribute to her laid back attitude but I am sure she realises this is something she needs to improve to break into the top 10 in the world.

24 tournaments last year helped to qualify Yigit for the London Olympics but what was most impressive was her level of consistency. There is a bright future for the Young Turk who will be one of the favourites to lift the European Junior Championship in her home country in March 2013.

Jump Smashing Gilmour

KIRSTY GILMOUR (Scotland): Gilmour is without doubt one of the hardest working and most dedicated players currently on tour. Most coaches will tell you that this is a critical aspect in the development of any young female talent and having someone who wants it is half the battle.

Gilmour has one thing in her mind and that is the Olympics in Rio and right now she is a safe bet to represent GB in South America in 4 years time.

What has Gilmour got that others don’t…..Well how many female singles players have you seem with a powerful jump smash? Gilmour’s jump smash is so effective that most will do everything in their power to avoid lifting the shuttle. What her opponents tend to forget is that Gilmour has a well rounded game and can match the best on tour at the net as well as mentally and tactically. There are few on tour that have the physical conditioning of the young Scot so stringing five matches together in three days is pretty much a doddle for Glaswegian.

Putting 5 matches together in a row is something that Gilmour has become accustomed to of late. She has lifted two senior circuit tournaments in the past 7 weeks including the International Series rated Polish Open and her first International Challenge victory at the Czech Open in Brno.

Probably her biggest weakness is that her play can become somewhat predictable at times. She has three shots that she favours more than others and when she goes around the head what comes next is more often than not a cross court angled drop. Do your homework on Kristy’s game and you might have a chance but that is only a chance as right now this girl is proving the form player on the European Circuit.

The commonwealth games in Glasgow is the short term aim for the Scot with Rio in her mind every morning when she wakes up. Top 16 in the world is certainty achievable also and it will be interesting to see can she match the pace of the Asians over the next few years.

Tine’s Successor

LINE KJAERSFELDT (Denmark) Line is without doubt the future of Danish women’s singles. She has already been blooded at senior international level after representing Denmark’s ladies at the European qualification for the Uber cup and this year’s Uber Cup itself.

Kjaersfeldt is one of a bunch of talented singles players coming through from Denmark which includes Sandra Maria Jensen, Anna Thea Madsen and Natalia Koch Rhode to name but a few. What sets Kjaersfeldt apart from the rest is her speed on court and her ability to pull off the big shots under pressure.

Working against the tall Dane is the fact that she is so good that she excels not only at singles but at mixed and doubles also. This year I saw Kjaersfeldt come through qualification in singles and mixed while also playing in the main draw and all at one particular tournament. By day 3 she had just simply ran out of steam and went home empty handed. She has since cast adrift women’s doubles but still a demanding schedule of singles and mixed is a big ask for the young Dane as she continues to develop mentally and physically.

SORAYA DE VISH EIJBERGEN (The Netherlands) I first saw Soraya play at the European club championships two years ago in Zwolle, The Netherlands where she won every singles match she played as her club Duinwijck lifted the European title. What made this feat all the more remarkable was that the young Dutch girl played singles, mixed and doubles at that tournament.

She was a revelation that week and since then had developed physically to be worthy of a place of this list of ones to watch. Again much like Kjersefeldt, De Vish Eijbergen has suffered from being too good at more than just singles but this year it is clear the Dutch girl is concentrating more now on her singles with a small helping of mixed thrown in for good measure.

Consistency is the issue for Soraya at the moment as there is no doubting here natural talent; the big doubt is her ability to string a series of five matches together to win a tournament. Mentally there are always opportunities for opponents to break Soraya down but once she really finds that killer instinct she will be a real force for the Dutch in women’s singles for many years to come and time is on her side.

Bulgaria’s strength in Depth

STEFANI STOEVA (Bulgaria) While Bulgaria basks in the success of Petya Nedelcheva and Linda Zetchiri coming behind hot on their heels is the immense talent of Sisi Stoeva. What makes Stoeva special is that at the tender age of just 17 she is already a multiple winner on the senior European circuit in both singles and doubles (alongside her sister Gabi)

Stoeva plays without fear which befits her tender years and really when all things are considered should be hot favourite for the European Junior Championships next march in Turkey where the final should end up in a battle between the Bulgarian and Yigit. Stoeva is very much at home and comfortable mixing singles with doubles and wherever one sister goes the other is not very far behind.

The Bulgarian is extremely athletic and produces power that her slender build certainly disguises very well. Mentally she is unfazed and against Sisi the game is never won until that last shuttle hits the floor.

Her technique is something that sometimes lets her down but she is one of these rare breeds of extremely hard working athletes that listens and learns and works hard to improve.

Summary: One thing is certain the five young ladies listed above will have the weight of expectation weighing heavily on their shoulders over the coming years. As National players they will be heavily relied on to deliver victories under extreme pressure and as Europeans they will be sent out to try and match their Asian counterparts in an effort to close the gap between both continents.

One thing we can be assured of is that these five have the drive and determination to be the best they can be. They all posses a gritty determination to succeed and I for one look forward to monitoring their success over the coming years and success is something that they will all embrace as champions.

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