FOR most, the time of Covid-19 has been a period of frustration, but for Raphoe’s Rachael Darragh it seems to have been one of focus.
Since she returned to action at the Saarlorlux Open in Germany at the end of October, she has been in a rich vein of form, reaching the last-16 of both the mixed doubles and ladies singles. And her impressive performances continued at the weekend in Portugal where she reached the semi-finals of the singles and the final of the doubles alongside Sara Boyle.
“It was good, it was really nice just to be back after such a long break,” beamed Rachael, who represented Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
She continued: “I felt great, I felt really strong after the lockdown and I think the training during the lockdown actually really helped. I think the break really helped, the mental break to go away and work on things when you have so much time is just really good.”
Rachael and Sara began their doubles campaign with a last-16 victory over Portuguese duo, Catarina Cristina and Catarina M Martins 21-12, 21-8 before they ousted Poland’s Dominkia Kwasnik and Magdalena Swierczynska 21-14, 21-7.
In the semi-finals, Darragh and Boyle met Scottish pair, Sarah Sidebottom and Eleanor O’Donnell, who they defeated 21-19, 21-13 to reach the decider where they took on Lauren Middleton and Holly Newall in what turned out to be a nail-biter, with the Scots claiming the narrowest of wins by 22-20, 25-23.
“At the end of both sets [in the final], it was so close and there were just a couple of little things that could have gone either way in both so it was kind of unlucky for us to lose out that closely,” Rachael observed.
“But me and Sara are both singles players, we only entered the doubles as a bonus so to reach the final in the first place is an achievement in itself, it was great.”
Rachael’s singles campaign also went well at the Portugal International where she defeated the host nation’s Sofia Setim 21-17, 21-12 in the last-32 before accounting for Switzerland’s Indira Dickhaeuser 21-11, 21-10 to reach the quarter-finals where she ousted number three seed, Poland’s Wiktoria Dabczynska 21-7, 21-4.
That comprehensive victory over a higher ranked opponent set up a last-four clash with number one seed, Switzerland’s Sabrina Jacquet, who claimed a 21-15, 21-14 victory over the Raphoe woman.
FULL STORY IN LAST THURSDAY’S STRABANE CHRONICLE