Lauren Smith wants young people to think about badminton players the same way they do about Roger Federer.
The Lowtown-born player had a mixed second day at the Yonex All England Championships, booking her place in the mixed doubles quarter-finals alongside Marcus Ellis but exiting the women’s doubles with partner Chloe Birch.
Smith and Ellis toppled fourth seeds Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino 21-15 21-10 in the morning session, but the 28-year-old was unable to emulate her heroics later than day when she and Birch succumbed to a heartbreaking 21-16 22-20 defeat against world No.1s Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.
But after being cheered on by a raucous Arena Birmingham crowd including hundreds of young children, she says she wants badminton to continue its growth to reach a level on a par with tennis.
“It’s brilliant to see so many young faces in the crowd supporting us - I’m really passionate, and so is Marcus, about badminton in the UK and getting it out there and in the media, and getting people to watch,” she said.
“We want to make sure people see top-level sport so they can get role models from the sport that they want to emulate, so maybe they’ll pick up a racket.
“I feel like that’s what you see from the other top sports - in tennis, for example, people pick up a racket and do the Roger Federer backhand.
“I want people in the UK to have seen this event and think ‘I want to do the Viktor Axelsen jump smash,’ or whatever it may be - we just want to get the word out, get more people playing and raise the profile and the level of the sport in this country.
“I think the future of British badminton is heading in the right direction - there were a lot of young people in the crowd today which is hugely motivating, and I know Badminton England are doing great things to plan for the future.”
Smith was certainly doing all she could on the court to inspire the next generation, booking her place in the mixed doubles last eight before duelling it out with the first seeds in the women’s competition but narrowly missing out on teeing up a deciding third game.
But despite her and Birch’s departure, Smith says is remaining upbeat heading into the rest of the competition - and beyond.
“It’s difficult for me because it was obviously such a high for me after the mixed game this morning, but it’s not a huge low after that women’s match,” she added.
“Credit to how we played, and there are so many positives to take from it - I don’t want us both feeling down that we lost, because if you look at where we were this time last year we lost in a very different kind of manner.
“I’m very positive about the overall day - we can take loads of confidence from how well we did against the world No.1s.
“It’s great how we’re playing at the moment - the work we’re putting in in training is really starting to pay off.”
Witness Legends Begin at the 2020 Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships at Arena Birmingham between March 11-15. Secure your tickets at https://www.allenglandbadminton.com/today.