WIMBLEDON’S Toby Penty admits he must become mentally tougher if he is going to replicate his AJ Bell National Badminton League form in other competitions.

Penty continued his unbeaten start to the AJ Bell NBL season with a 9-5, 9-5, 9-6 triumph over Henri Hurskainen in Birmingham Lions’ 3-2 defeat to leaders Loughborough Sport on Monday night.

But two days earlier, he had exited the English National Badminton Championships at the semi-final stage after losing 21-9, 21-14 to eventual runner-up Alex Lane, having gone into the tournament with high hopes of challenging eight-time champion Rajiv Ouseph.

Penty, the 23-year-old Birmingham Lions captain, said: “It was not my best performance. Alex played a good match, but I don’t think I played at the level that I did in the AJ Bell NBL tonight or in the past.

“I need to work on the mental side of my game so that in those big matches I can play my best badminton.

“I think the pressure got to me a bit. Alex put the pressure on me and I can admit that I cracked a bit. It is something that I need to work on and I have talked about it with my coach and it is an ongoing process.

“It is a big part of my game that I am looking to improve on and if I do then I think I will make real strides soon.

“I think it is really good for English badminton that we have the real pressure environment created by the AJ Bell NBL so for me it a case of trying to translate the NBL form into the other tournaments.”

The former Halliford School pupil’s victory on Monday night – and Gary Fox and Koen Ridder first AJ Bell NBL victory of the season against Peter Briggs and Harley Towler – saw Birmingham Lions lead 2-0.

But Lauren Smith and Jenny Wallwork kept Loughborough Sport's hopes of victory alive by beating Heather Olver and Sarah Walker 9-8, 9-5, 9-4.

Chloe Birch then exacted a small measure of revenge over Birmingham Lions’ Fontaine Chapman after losing to her in the English Nationals women’s singles final by coming from 2-0 down to win with the final shot in the tie-break.

That meant it was left to Loughborough Sport's pairing of Greg Mairs and Jenny Moore to beat Nico Ruponen and Alida Chen 9-5, 9-6, 9-6 to seal the 3-2 win.

The leading four teams after next month’s final group stage match will take part in the AJ Bell NBL Finals Day on May 8.

And Birmingham Lions remain in a strong position to finish in the play-offs as they sit third on 11 points, and captain Penty is remaining confident.

He added: “The team has done brilliantly this season and there is a real team unity there that has been built up over time.

“And personally I am unbeaten this season in the AJ Bell NBL so I am really chuffed.”

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