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The build-up to the YONEX All England Open is continuing at pace, with Steven Stallwood among the home favourites hoping for a tournament to remember.

He tells us how his preparations have been going, recovering from Covid-19 and his dreams of succeeding at a competition he used to attend as a youngster…

The build-up to the YONEX All England Open

So far, the build-up has been really good, everyone (in the England squad) is getting back into the flow of things. I actually tested positive for Covid-19 after New Year’s Eve, so I was out of action for a few days last month.

When I actually had the virus, it was so bad. I was in bed for two or three days just sweating all the time but then I was able to move around the house.

Luckily my housemate found out that I had Covid and moved to a different place for a few days, so I had the whole house to myself which was nice. As soon as it passed I felt fine.

I’m gradually getting back into the groove of things now and it’s the All England isn’t it? You can’t not be excited.

In England it’s the biggest tournament, and ever since I was young it’s been the number one championship I’ve always wanted to play in.

I was looking up to these people that I saw playing on the court at the All England before, and know what it takes. So, as much as I want to start playing, I also know that the training comes first.

At the moment I’m just working hard, training hard and doing as much as I can. That’s all I can do for now but I can’t wait to get going.

Earliest YONEX All England memories

Myself and Callum (Hemming) are from Milton Keynes, we both started at the same club, and I think ever since we met, we’ve had that really competitive energy. At times it clashed, but it also brought us really close.

I remember at one stage I wasn’t really into the badminton side of things, so I didn’t really know too much about the All England. But I remember him asking if I wanted to go to the tournament with him.

I think going there and seeing it left me mesmerised. It’s the Wembley of badminton arenas – magical.

I remember it so clearly as well, watching Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan, then going up to try and shake their hands. Knowing that I’m going to be in that same position and playing in Birmingham is an amazing feeling.

Targets and ambitions

For me, it will just be about playing well first and foremost. Like I’ve said, I’m still very new to this elite circuit, schedule and the tournaments.

I’ve done well at tournaments in the past but, for me, it will just be about trying to take it one game at a time and trying to ensure my performance levels are good, not just for the fans but for my family as well.

If I can win, that would be amazing. But if I don’t, then at least I want to come off the court with my head held high, knowing I have given it my best shot.

Back in front of a crowd

I can’t wait to play in-front of fans, not only the badminton public, but it’s also just a privilege to play with my family and my friends supporting me.

People have seen me compete in these junior tournaments since I was 13, 14, 15, so to then compete at the All England would just be amazing.

It will be especially big for my parents, who have helped me so much in my badminton career, to get to see me play on the biggest stage, I feel like I am almost giving something back to them.

I just hope that they have a great time. When I went as a kid, I supported the English players like crazy and hopefully it will be the same.

When I step out on the court, all I’m hoping is that a vocal crowd will get behind me and rally me on to do well.

The YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships return to Utilita Arena Birmingham with the best players from around the world from 16th – 20th March 2022.

Don’t miss out, get your tickets today.

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