MAUCHLINE badminton starlet Holly Newall says 2016, when she made her international debut, has been the best season of her career so far.
The 18-year-old was part of the Scotland team during qualification for the European Mixed Team Championships in Slovenia in November, winning two of her three matches as the Scots fell short of reaching next year’s finals.
Newall followed that up with victory in the Czech Junior Championships, before reaching the first round of the Scottish Open last week.
This month’s Welsh Open is her last tournament during a breakthrough year, which follows a disastrous 2015/16 campaign that was ruined by a serious shoulder injury.
And Newall admits the last few weeks have been the craziest of her career, with her successes seeing her named SportsAid Athlete of the Month.
“I am really pleased with my season and I feel I have improved a lot,” she said.
“It was probably the best experience of my life in Slovenia. Representing Scotland at senior level was just fantastic.
“We played well but just missed out on getting through. I got three caps that weekend and walking out on court for the first time was crazy.
“I was so nervous because I did not want to let the team down but I was extremely happy when I managed to win my first point and secure the win against Latvia.
“I played well in my first two matches but then I played Sabrina Jaquet from Switzerland, who was an Olympian. It was a fantastic learning curve for me.
“I won two matches at senior level so it worked out very well. The team got on fine and there was a great bond with everyone.”
Newall is also part of the SSE Next Generation Programme, which gives support to 100 of the best up and coming young British athletes from a variety of sports on their way to the top.
The former Bellahouston Academy student was disappointed with her early exit in the Scottish Open, where she went down to fifth seed Mia Blichfeldt 21-18 21-15, but hopes to meet her again in Wales next month.
“It was a pretty tough draw but I feel I performed really well. It was fairly close which is great, but I could have done a little better,” she said.
“In qualifying I was really confident and happy with how I performed but I dipped a little bit when I made it to the main draw.
“I have the Welsh Open next month, where I could play Mia again. If I get a few more points on the board then it is progress.
“I am really pleased with my season and I feel I have improved a lot, but now my focus is on the European Under-19 Championships next March.”