Ben Lane knows that for any British badminton player the YONEX All England Championships are much more than just another stop on the sport’s world tour.
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games mixed team bronze medallist spent a childhood obsessing over the competition, fuelling his love for the sport that has since become his livelihood.
And with sport’s oldest event, now in its 109th year, all set to get underway at the Arena Birmingham on March 6, Lane is once again preparing to follow in the footsteps of the heroes he watched on the courts as a youngster.
“It’s sort of like the Wimbledon of badminton, because it’s the biggest in the world bar the Olympics,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I used to go and watch when I was younger – from when I was eight to 18 – and now to play in it is really nice, especially with my family coming up to watch as well.
“There’s a really good atmosphere around the arena, a lot of English fans cheering.
“We’ve recently just got back from Asia where we played in Indonesia and the atmosphere is absolutely incredible – we could see that it helps the local players there – so I think with the crowd cheering in England it just gives you that extra bit of adrenaline which will hopefully get you over the line.”
With home support a crucial advantage for the Brits on show, Lane and co will be buoyed by over 30,000 partisan supporters descending on the Arena Birmingham across the championships.
On court, however, Lane – along with mixed doubles partner Jess Pugh – will have to be at his best to topple the world’s elite, with Olympic and world champions all set to battle it out for supremacy.
But the 21-year-old is confident that his compatriots, such as world number seven pair Chris and Gabby Adcock, can do the business and deliver a first home title since Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms took top spot back in 2005.
“Of course. Definitely in the mixed doubles we could have an English winner – we’ll see,” he said.
“I think there’s definitely two mixed pairs that can compete with medals and definitely win. There’s a men’s doubles, ladies doubles, loads of events where England can compete.
“It’s been a busy time. I’m feeling sharp and had lots of matches, so feel match ready. I think just going in and getting through a round would be a real bonus for me and Jess.”
The 2019 YONEX All England – Badminton’s Greatest Show on the sport’s world tour – will wow fans at Arena Birmingham, 6-10 March. For tickets and information: www.allenglandbadminton.com or search All England tickets