When Marcus Ellis makes his AJ Bell National Badminton league return with Team Derby, he will do so facing a whole new level of attention.
But while being announced as an Olympic bronze medallist will ramp up the pressure, the Huddersfield star admits he will mainly be concentrating on adapting to the shorter playing format.
After missing out on the inaugural title with Loughborough Sport two years ago, Ellis took a year out from the competition to concentrate on his doubles partnership with Chris Langridge – a decision that paid off as they not only qualified for Rio 2016 but walked away with a bronze medal.
But the now back for the new AJ Bell NBL season – albeit in different colours having signed for Team Derby over the summer.
Compared to the usual scoring system of best of three games to 21 points, the AJ Bell NBL differs in that each match night features five events using the ‘first to nine points’ rally scoring system.
And Ellis admitted the different scoring system makes for a different mentality on court.
“In my first year of playing, it took me quite a long time to adjust to the scoring and the little differences like the powerplays,” he said.
“The momentum is completely different to a regular tournament with only playing to nine points – you win a game and then all of a sudden it’s back to zero.
“You never have a chance to relax or rest – it always seems tense and it’s always close, which makes a big difference and levels the field.
“My experiences from the first season will definitely make a big difference for me this time. “Even in that first year, by the time of the finals I felt reasonably comfortable about how things work, what matters and what doesn’t matter.
“Obviously I had last year off, so it will almost feel like a new league to me again this year because it’s so different to any other badminton tournament or leagues.
“It’s a really exciting competition and I’m glad to be back. A few teams contacted me but Derby approached me with an offer and were very honest, saying they would love me to play for them.
“They were straight with me and told me what the deal was, so within a couple of days it was all sorted – there was no messing around.
Ellis and Team Derby – champions two seasons ago – will sit out on the opening match night with their first fixture coming at home to Bristol Jets on November 7.
The Huddersfield player caught the attention of the public during Rio 2016 when he and Langridge won a surprise bronze.
And while this summer’s Olympics may be fading into the memories of some, Ellis is keen to keep badminton in the spotlight.
“I think the AJ Bell NBL is a fantastic outlet for people to come and watch because other than a couple of tournaments in England throughout the year, people don’t have the opportunity to watch top-level badminton in person,” he added.
“It’s a good chance to come and watch and I think it will help people appreciate how good badminton can be when it’s played at the top level.
“Badminton maybe has a bit of a reputation of being a bit of a garden sport, so it’s nice when people say ‘I’ve never seen badminton played like this before’. We had a lot of messages like that after Rio.
“It was really encouraging and that can only be done by people coming to watch it themselves.”
The 2016/17 season of the AJ Bell National Badminton League starts on Monday 17 October. For fixtures, tickets and team news visit the National Badminton League website or follow @NBL_official on Twitter.