Friday, January 30, 2009

Ouseph on the title trail

DEFENDING CHAMPION Rajiv Ouseph got off to a flying start when the English National Championships got under way today at the Velodrome in SportCity, Manchester today.
The top seed from Middlesex, who is world No 40, outplayed Yorkshire’s Richard Morris in the opening round of the men’s singles 21-8 21-15 in the morning session then returned in the afternoon to book his place in tomorrow’s quarter-finals by beating Surrey’s Robert Kettle 21-12 21-9.

Eighth seed Jamie Bonsels of Yorkshire will be his next opponent after he edged past Shropshire’s Mark Sellwood 22-20 21-15.

Jersey’s Mark Constable, the 2002 champion and the only other player in the draw apart from Ouseph to have appeared in the final, booked his place in the last eight with a close 21-15 23-21 victory over Yorkshire’s Alex Marritt. Fifth seed Constable, who was representing Warwickshire when he was champion, now meets second seed Carl Baxter of Avon.

Constable’s Jersey team-mate Elizabeth Cann is top seed in the women’s singles and is bidding for a third title in a row and a fourth in five years – all in Manchester. She was in action in the evening session against Hertfordshire’s England international Rachel Howard and Cann came through 21-19 21-11.

In the mixed doubles Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Jenny Wallwork (Yorks) returned to tournament action after missing the Malaysia and Korea Opens. The second seeds faced a tricky second round against Nick Ponting (Gloucs) and Julie Bradbury (Oxfordshire), two 40-somethings making a sentimental return to the Nationals more than 13 years after being doubles champions.

Robertson and Wallwork, the second seeds, were made to work for their place in the last eight before winning 21-14 21-17.

European champions and top seeds Anthony Clark (Notts) and Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire) got their bid for a hat-trick of wins off to a sound start with a 21-7 21-16 second-round win over Ben Stawski (Warks) and Lauren Smith (Cumbria) after a first-round bye.

Clark and Robertson team up as top seeds and defending champions in the men’s doubles where Clark is bidding for a record-equalling eight title in a row and a fifth with Robertson.

Play at the English Nationals continues with the quarter-finals tomorrow (Sat, 10am) with the semi-finals in the evening session (5.30pm).