As months go, England's Chloe Birch couldn’t have asked for a better March.
A County Championships win with Yorkshire, success at BUCS Big Wednesday with Loughborough Sport and a debut appearance at the YONEX All England Open has made the early signs of spring 2017 one to remember for the 21-year-old.
Born in Preston but based in Sheffield, Birch helped the White Rose to a 15th county title at the weekend, just days after helping Loughborough to a convincing 6-2 win over Durham University in the final of the BUCS Championship.
The county title was sealed despite a loss to rivals Buckinghamshire, and Birch ended the County Championships season with a 94% win rate, dropping just 3 games in 18 fixtures.
And although Birch admits her recent victories were not unexpected, she was pleased to live up to the form book.
“I’m delighted to win both, it was expected that Loughborough were going to win BUCS and that Yorkshire would win the County Championship but you still have to go and do it so I’m very pleased,” said
“It was nice to meet the expectations and get points for my team, I’ve worked on handling those demands and try and manage that as I go through tournaments whoever I’m playing for.
“I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I still play in those types of tournaments. They’re competitions where the expectation is on me as opposed to most internationals so it’s nice to be able to make myself deliver, particularly if I’m expected to win.
“It’s something I’ve kept in mind that I’ve always needed to do.”
Coming just days apart, Birch could have understandably been tired or wanted more training time heading into the County Championships – but the right hander instead said she prefers the quick-fire nature domestic competition can provide.
“The two were just a few days apart but that’s something I’ve always been used to, at uni in particular, so it was busy but an expectant busy and I managed to keep that all in check,” she added.
“I feel like after three years I’ve found the balance between being busy and still being able to train.
“It’s all about preparation. You know you need to perform so you do all the training to get ready, you know what works for yourself and playing matches gives me confidence so I want to do as much of that as possible.
“I don’t want a solid block of training when I know I can go out there and perform, so it’s about knowing what you can get out of things.
“To have both BUCS and county was a busy week, but it puts me in good stead knowing I’ve got two internationals back-to-back and that I’ve had some solid preparation.”
Earlier in the month Birch made her YONEX All England Open debut, losing in the qualifying round of 16 to Bulgaria’s Mariya Mitsova, and she returns to international competition on Friday when she faces Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour at the Orleans International.
She will then go on to the Finnish Open early next month, and the 11-time national junior champion is hoping to maintain her winning form.
“Winning is a habit, so even just playing a few games at county level is competition and I feel more confident heading to France this week with that competition behind me,” said Birch.
“You get a lot of confidence from that, you never get a bad feeling from winning and it’s about having that and going into a tournament feeling strong and just seeing how far that can take you.
“I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. Internationals are always nice to play and you try and get to the stage that, whoever you get in the draw, you’re confident you can beat because you’re playing well enough.
“Sometimes as a player you don’t like to admit a lack of confidence, but when it’s there it does affect you.
“You can be a great badminton player but if you don’t have that confidence then it can be a much, much bigger challenge.”
Picture: Badminton Photo
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