By Oli Dickson Jefford, Sportsbeat
Ben Lane knows as well as anyone about the value of experience.
The 25-year-old and doubles partner Sean Vendy are no strangers to the YONEX All England Open, with 2023 set to be their fourth straight appearance at the showpiece event in Birmingham.
The 2022 edition saw the duo claim a special first All England win, but they suffered a stinging second round defeat to third seeds Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi - in which they led 19-15 in the deciding game.
But while many would have failed to rebound from such a loss it instead spurred Lane and Vendy onto career best form, reaching an all-time high of 13th in the world rankings and beating several of the world’s best pairings - alongside winning Commonwealth silver in Birmingham.
“After every tournament we sit down and reflect after a few days,” commented Lane.
“Last year was a great year for us and you always learn a lot from losing - and it hurts to lose at one of the most important tournaments of the year - but hopefully that defeat gave us valuable experience for this year and the coming tournament.
“We had a great last six months in 2022. We really feel like our games have improved a lot over the last couple of years, but I think that’s down to the work that we put in every day - if you put the work in every day, the results will follow.”
Years of playing together and riding the highs and lows of professional sport have seen the duo develop a strong bond, something Lane believes is key.
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He added: “We’re great friends off the court and we set very similar goals and ambitions which is great in a partnership, because we’re both working towards the same thing.
“I think in terms of a doubles partnership it is one of the most important things, having good partnership dynamics, especially when it gets tough out there.
“Emotions are high during matches and when you’re struggling in stressful situations, you really need a partner by your side you can trust, and we both trust each other.
“We’ve been through so much throughout our careers together on and off the court that it’s probably one of our biggest strengths - when it does get tough, we can stay together.”
Lane and Vendy will be looking to put all their knowledge to good use when the YONEX All England begins in two weeks, having been handed a tough first round draw.
Chinese fifth seeds Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan will be their opening opponents, with a strong performance most likely needed for the two to progress.
Yet that is not something that phases Lane, who was always prepared to battle hard when the tournament began.
“The men’s doubles tour at the moment is stacked with so many good pairs so there’s never an easy game,” Lane said. “We just must focus on our game and what works well for us.
“Especially in the lead up to the big events, we’ll do quite a lot of work sharpening up and where we think our best game is, we’ll just work on that extra one or two percent that can make a difference in the end.
“Going into the event we obviously want to perform our best, and we know that if we do perform our best, we can challenge anyone and we can challenge for titles. We showed that last year by reaching the final of the Commonwealth Games, reaching the semi-final of the French Open.
“When we play well, we can beat any pair. We don’t necessarily have goals about what round we want to get to; we just want to try and perform our best and just hopefully that’ll take us deep into the tournament.”
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