Young Horsham badminton star David King was left shaking with disbelief on Monday after defeating a three-time Olympian on his AJ Bell National Badminton League debut.
Playing for Loughborough Lightning, King battled tooth and nail against Team Derby’s Scott Evans – Ireland’s highest-ranked player – before prevailing in the tie-break to win 5-9 9-4 4-9 9-2 3-0.
It was bittersweet for King’s side however, with his men’s singles victory their only win of the night as Team Derby triumphed 4-1 overall to book their spot in Wednesday’s Championship Final.
But for the 19-year-old, it proved to be a night to remember in front of a rapturous home crowd.
“I didn’t expect that result. I came in expecting a really tough match and just wanted to have fun,” he said.
“I just wanted to play my game, so it is phenomenal to come away with a win like I have. My heart is going nuts at the moment and I can’t believe what has just happened. What an experience.
“Scott is a phenomenal player, I’ve grown up watching him and he’s a fantastic athlete in general.
“It was always going to be tough going up against him – he’s had so many good results but I feel like I gave it my best and it was a really fun tie.
“It feels great to have made my NBL debut. This is my third season taking part in the league but I’ve always been on the bench, but today I got the call up.”
Only an emphatic victory would book Lightning a spot in the Championship Final, but it wasn’t to be as their opponents raced into a 3-0 lead before King reduced the arrears, but Team Derby wrapped up the victory in the mixed doubles finale.
The result means Loughborough Lightning miss out on finals day for the first time in their history with a third-place league finish, but King hopes his AJ Bell NBL bow marks the start of great things to come.
“It would be great to get the call up regularly now. I want to give my all for the team. The crowd have been amazing and it has been a really fun experience,” said King, who is studying for a foundation degree in sports science.
“It’s amazing representing my university at this level. Loughborough is one of the biggest sporting universities in the world, and to be representing them as their singles player is phenomenal.
“The amount of students I know in the crowd cheering for me, as well as those I don’t know, this has been a once in a lifetime experience.”
The AJ Bell National Badminton League final was due to take place on Wednesday. For more information, visit: www.nationalbadmintonleague.co.uk