The longest serving Mixed Doubles duo are ready to see their squad sail through into Division 1…

By Katie Garner

Longest serving mixed duo Stuart B and Club Captain Katie

Longest serving mixed duo Stuart B and Club Captain Katie

When I joined Wychelm Badminton Club, aged 16, in September 2006, I had no clue about tactics, about net shots or about the great love I was going to develop for the fast paced mixed doubles game. As one of the limited species of female exhibited at the club, my arrival, along with that of my sister and friend, meant that we were literally thrown in at the deep end, and straight into the squat-dominant, back-breaking front of court position. In my first ever competitive mixed doubles match, representing my brand new club, I was paired with my very own burly builder Stuart Barrett. He hasn’t been able to get rid of me since, meaning that we have been mixed doubles partners for an impressive six years now.

For me, there are so many reasons why Stuart is a fantastic team mate, but also why our partnership on court works so incredibly well. Appearances are definitely deceiving with Stuart and you would be very stupid if you dared to underestimate him, as you would soon be at the receiving end of a stonking great smash – by far his greatest asset, even winning him ‘The Big Smasher’ award at our 2011 Wychelm Christmas Awards.  But once again, don’t be duped into thinking that the Stu Man has only one string to his racket; his variety of shots mix up the pace and movement of the opponents, creating plenty of opportunities to close the rally.

Stuart can drop shot with the best of them, which is really useful in letting me pick at any mistakes from hapless floating shuttles. His movement around the court is also superb and no matter what I end up accidentally missing, I know that 99% of the time, Stuart will be able to pick up the shot, and to have this trust in your partner is so important as it gives you confidence and hope of victory, no matter what the score line. A complete power house, his clears rocket to the back of the court and shots skirt the side line, but really Stuart is famous for his smash, because it is a defined and proven winner in almost every situation. So many times, I have felt the wind whistle past my ear, toying with my hair as the shuttle speeds past, so low and fast, pulsing with controlled precision and energy with a steep decline heading into the next point.

I see part of my role as providing Stuart with invitations, adopting a very traditional and classic mixed doubles style. I produce a tight and low short serve, enemy clears it, Stuart smashes it. Granted, I do get to play more shots than that, with a splattering of net play, some cross court drop shots and also an indulgent array of smashes (let’s face it, everyone loves smashing).

What is truly fantastic though, is our consistency. We have been playing together for so long now, that we know each other’s games and movements incredibly well and almost uncannily. I know what shots Stuart loves to pick off, and I know what shots he expects me to get and vice versa. Over the years we have developed so strongly as a team, even affectionately naming ourselves ‘The Dream Team’! Because of this we have been able to win more and more matches as the competitive seasons pass, and last year we were part of the succeeding trophy winning Mixed Team that took Division 2 by storm and stampeded to first place with pride.

Entering Division 1 this season, we know is going to be tough and we aren’t expecting anything but to hold our heads high. Bring. It. On.

Katie’s best shot: Short serve. Unusual to go for a serve I know as my drives are also speedy, and I’m a dab hand at a net shot, but I feel that my short serves really enable us to get into the points quickly. There are only a few responses including a lift, which Stuart can deal with or another net shot, which I deal with. It saves a lot of hassle and heartache!

Stuart’s best shot: No question – smash. It’s amazing and undoubtedly one of the best at the club with comet like comparisons.