As the YONEX Thailand Open drew to a close at the weekend, England coach Julian Robertson writes how much he enjoyed seeing the squad challenge themselves as they returned to elite competition.
“It’s been great to see our players challenging themselves against some of the best players in the world.
"Whatever happens in their matches they are still learning their trade - whether that's opponents’ styles of play, pairs they've never played before or how they might need to adapt both physically, tactically and mentally for different opponents.
"This is what makes our sport so great. The team get to do this every day and they cherish every moment they can step on court and show what they can do. Which over the last 12 months has been a real challenge for all the athletes. Many of the players competing this week are still trying to find where their level is and also the opposition - this will take time but at least they can showcase their talent.
"Things here seemed to have calmed down a bit over the last few days although COVID-19 testing is pretty much every two/three days and it is something we need to get used to if elite sporting events continue around the world.
"The players are unfortunately not able to watch other opponents in the arena which is a real shame however matches are played on two TV channels in their rooms so at least they can watch live badminton throughout the day.
"Very rarely do the players compete over three consecutive weeks and now everyone is into the groove, preparing for the next tournament.”
The squad performed well throughout the week, with mixed doubles partnership Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith reaching the last 16, falling to Danes Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje, 21-18, 21-18.
Ben Lane and Sean Vendy also reached this stage, just missing out to Malaysian duo Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong, 21-11, 21-19.
We then reached two quarter-finals – Ellis and Chris Langridge had an epic battle against Indonesia’s Leo Rolly Carnando and Daniel Marthin, falling 12-21, 21-14, 21-15.
Our women’s doubles partnership of Smith and Chloe Birch faced tough opposition in Korea’s Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong, losing 21-8, 21-11.
Next up this week, we move onto the TOYOTA Thailand Open and you can watch live on BT Sport.