Wales No.1 badminton player Jordan Hart hopes to use the Yonex Welsh International Championships at the end of the month to build on her recent success in reaching her first Badminton Europe Circuit final.
The 22-year-old Pembroke Dock-born player has been seeded at No.3 for the top-flight tournament and is targeting a podium finish on home soil.
So far this year she has competed in Slovakia, Belgium, Poland and Holland and surpassed her seeding of No 4 in Poland when she reached the final.
She beat England’s No 2 seed Georgina Bland in the semi-finals before eventually going down to Switzerland’s No 3 seed Ayla Huser in a thrilling final, 21-19, 24-22.
“I’m extremely excited about playing in the Welsh Open. It’s my favourite tournament of the season as it’s my only chance to play in front of friends and family,” said Hart, who recently graduated from Loughborough University.
“Last year I performed really well at the tournament and hope I can better my results from 2016. I’m really happy to be the third seed and that definitely gives me a chance to progress in the tournament.
“I just have to keep going the form I have been showing over the last few months. I was so disappointed to come so close to winning in Poland, but I learned a lot from the experience.
“I know that I’ve got the fight and determination to get back into games I’m losing, to really dig deep when it’s needed and to be cool and calm in pressure situations. I’ve also learned just how important preparation, warm-up, nutrition, sleep, stretching and post match recovery are.
“The feeling of being in a final was amazing and it’s definitely the round I want to be getting into consistently.”
Hart competed at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games on the Isle of Man, reaching the last 16 in the Women’s Singles and the quarter-finals of the Mixed Doubles with Daniel Font, but was dogged by back and ankle injuries after that. The senior Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next year is probably beyond her this time around because the criteria for selection for Welsh players is to be in the top six in the Commonwealth Rankings.
That would mean Hart would need to be in the top 33 in the world in Women’s Singles. At present she is ranked at 120.
The Yonex Welsh International Championships runs from 29 November – 2 December at Sport Wales National Centre, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff and has attracted another top class entry to underline its place as one of the top tournaments in the UK. Players from all over the world will compete over the four days and the event will be preceded by the Yonex Super Demo on 28 November.
Olympic, Commonwealth and European Medallists Chris Langridge, Marcus Ellis, Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker will play in exhibition matches in the Welsh capital to give youngsters from schools and other Welsh badminton members the chance to watch badminton of the highest order.
The tournament itself has attracted 288 entries from 30 countries, including India, New Zealand and Pakistan as well as many European nations.