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Birch set to build in ‘roller coaster’ 2022 Sport-rated




February 27, 2023

For Chloe Birch, taking the next step is all about a change in mindset.

Having played alongside Jess Pugh at the YONEX All England Open a year ago, Birch and Lauren Smith resumed their partnership later in the season, winning a memorable silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

It wasn’t the easiest year for Birch, who had to deal with switching partners and then spending time off the court after Smith suffered an ankle injury late in the season.

But the 27-year-old believes there are plenty of positives to build on ahead of a busy season, and the YONEX All England is a key part of that.

Birch said: “For us, it’s always a big one on the calendar. It’s obviously a local tournament, and it’s such a prestigious event that we look forward to it every year.

“Last year was a bit of a strange year for me. There were some ups and downs with switching partners, starting to play mixed doubles as well, but obviously Lauren was back for the Commonwealth Games and then Lauren got injured.

“It was a roller coaster year, but from Birmingham we knew, in six weeks of training for the Commonwealth Games, what level we had been and how we could improve, that gave us a lot of confidence.”

“Now that we’re back on the court and we’re back together, everything is going very well. We’re just learning game by game again to figure out what we need to do for our association.”

Birch and Smith are seasoned players, long established on tour, although as the duo look to progress towards the YONEX All England, and ultimately the Olympics in Paris next summer, there is plenty to work on.

For both women, it’s about challenging previous thoughts and expectations to give their opponents a tougher test.

“We’re both physical players and we play a pretty physical game,” Birch said.

“We are currently trying to work on making it a little more tactical.

“Right now, our opponents expect us to play a really strong game, but not necessarily that we’ll be that good up front, or that good at setting or switching.

“We’re just trying to add that extra edge to our game so people don’t really know what to expect from us.

“The best players in the world are always looking for how they can beat you and that’s what we’ve really figured out, that’s how they’ve beaten us, having that extra edge.

“It’s hard because Lauren and I try to be a pretty consistent couple, not wanting to make too many mistakes, playing a pretty strong game, and then you have to think that making a mistake or two is okay because you’re trying something new.

“Sometimes in training it’s just about getting over the frustrations and accepting that these frustrations will be there, but to improve as a couple and to improve as badminton players, we need to do something a little different.

“It’s frustrating, but hopefully when it comes to our games it will be a lot less frustrating.”

With the tournament drawing ever closer, this year will largely be about Birch and Smith continuing to move in the right direction, although a big win wouldn’t hurt.

Americans Srivedya Gurazada and Ishika Jaiswal await the English pair in the first round, with a possible second-round clash against fifth seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan.

“It’s definitely about continuing to build,” Birch added. “We have highlighted some areas where we want to improve if we want to challenge the best in the world.

“It would be great if he went out for the All England this year, but it’s not something in the short term. We are thinking of Paris, now another 18 months to go.

“It would be amazing if we beat one of the top ten in the world at home, that’s definitely something we’re looking to do. But if we get some of the things we’ve been working on in training right, we’ll take that as a positive as well.”

Tickets for the YONEX All England Open 2023 are on sale now. Click here To discover more.

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