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Seeing Natsir at the All England was my motivation - Pugh

The prospect of facing the reigning Olympic champions across the court could be a daunting task for even the best pairs in the world - but for England’s Jess Pugh it is a dream come true.

In fact, it is a prospect that permeates into a little smile that lights up her face as partner Ben Lane lets Pugh know that the pair are drawn against Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad in the Denmark Open this week.

The first round meeting in Copenhagen will be a career first for the pairs but is a head to head that Pugh had hoped would come along ever since seeing the Indonesian legend live in action at the YONEX All England 13 years ago.

The All England, after all, is not just inspiration for fans. It is a source of motivation for players of all ages.

“Natsir is my idol” the 21 year old English national champion tells us. “I have always hoped I’d get the chance to play before she retires.

“I’m really excited. Ever since I started playing badminton she has been my idol. She is the reason why I wanted to play badminton.

“I remember watching her play at the All England live when I was about 8 years old and, to this day, I have always said it was my wish to play against her so I am really happy I get that chance."

Now fast closing in on 600 career wins on the world circuit and having been YONEX All England four times since, as idols go Natsir is the near perfect role model.

But for Pugh she is looking beyond the medal success. a CV boasting more than 40 titles and the experience from having played in more than 70 finals at international level.

The 21 year old is more inspired by the style and match play qualities Natsir brings.

“I idolised her game because she is a skill player and I feel like that’s my strengths on court so I could relate to her” Pugh adds.

“She always appears very relaxed, she reads the game really well and she gets net cords for fun so her vision is definitely something I can learn from and use in my game.”

And as for the chances of Pugh and regular partner Lane  in Copenhagen? Pugh is hopeful the pair can spring a few surprises after climbing the world rankings to a current position of 26th.

“We would like to think we always have a chance whoever we play now. We are really improving.

Physically we are probably better equipped to play them but they have the experience. We will just give it our all and see what happens”