Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tricky English Nationals test for Robertson and Wallwork

PAST WINNERS Nick Ponting (Gloucs) and Julie Bradbury (Oxfordshire) are on course to meet second seeds Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Jenny Wallwork (Yorks) in the second round of the mixed doubles after the draw for this weekend’s English National Badminton Championships at Manchester Velodrome was published today.

Ponting, like Robertson, has won the mixed four times but the 42-year-old’s wins came between 1992 and 1995. Bradbury, 42 next month, won her one mixed title with Simon Archer in 1996 but this season Ponting and Bradbury have been the pair to beat on the Over 40s circuit.

Two-time defending champions Anthony Clark (Notts) and Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire), the European champions, begin their hat-trick bid with a second-round clash against the winners of the first-round meeting between Tom Armstrong (Leics) & Catherine Grant (Warks) and Ben Stawski (Warwicks) & Lauren Smith (Cumberland)

Clark and Kellogg are on course to meet former world junior silver medallists and fourth seeds Chris Adcock (Notts) and Gabby White (Yorks) in the semi-finals while world No 16 pair David Lindley and Suzanne Rayappan are Robertson and Wallwork’s likely semi-final opponents if the event goes to seeding.

Four-times champions and holders Clark and Robertson are top seeds in the men’s doubles where the winners of the first-round clash between Gary Fox (Lancs) & Richard Morris (Yorks) and Chris Evans (Hants) & Adam Smith (Avon) present the first obstacle. Clark is chasing his eighth men’s doubles title in a row.

The big test will come if they move on to meet joint third seeds Richard Eidestedt (Bucks) and Andrew Ellis (Yorks) in the semi-finals. Eidestedt and Ellis are England’s highest ranked pair in the world at No 21 but Clark and Robertson produced their best performance since teaming up again when the reached the Malaysian Open semi-finals earlier this month and are now up to No 46 after just a handful of events back together..

Second seeds Chris Adcock (Notts) and former champion Robert Blair (Leics), ranked
No 22 in the world, are on course to meet fourth seeds Chris Langridge (Surrey) and David Lindley (Notts) in the semi-finals. Langridge and Lindley were runners-up in the Swedish International in Stockholm on Sunday and that performance should boost their world ranking from No 58.

Rajiv Ouseph (Middx) defends his men’s singles title as top seed and starts against Yorkshire’s Morris. His first real test should come against Yorkshire’s eighth seed Jamie Bonsels in the quarter-finals with Surrey’s Ben Beckman the likely semi-final obstacle.

The big danger is second seed Carl Baxer (Avon), who reached the semi-finals in Stockholm. He starts against Warwickshire’s Chris Dakin but Jersey’s fifth seed and former champion Mark Constable might present his first real problem if they meet in the quarter-finals. Constable, the 2002 champion, is the only other player in the draw to have reached the final apart from Ouseph.

Jersey’s Elizabeth Cann is favourite to win her fourth women’s singles title but might face a difficult second-round test if she comes up against Hertfordshire’s England international Rachel Howard.

Three-time runner-up Jill Pittard (Warks) is the second seed and can expect to meet third seed and new England international Helen Davies (Cheshire) in the semi-finals. But first she may have to dispose of promising Hampshire teenager Panuga Riou in the quarter-finals.

In the women’s doubles Kellogg is bidding to win the title three years in a row with different partners following successes with Gail Emms and Tracey Hallam. Kellogg and Suzanne Rayappan (Herts) are top seeds and start off their title bid against Hampshire pair Jo Dix and Kelly Holdway.

They can anticipate a tricky semi-final against former England players Sarah Hardaker (Hants) and former champion Jo Nicholas (Beds), the fourth seeds.

Yorkshire duo Wallwork and White, England’s No 1 women’s doubles pair for the European Team Championships in Liverpool from February 10-15, are second seeds and start their bid against Howard and Nicola Cerfontyne (Dorset).

They are likely to face third seeds Mariana Agathangelou and Sarah Bok in the semi-finals but to get there the Avon-Yorkshire pair may have to overcome three-time champion Bradbury and Heather Olver (Sussex) if they meet in the second round.

Play in these sixth English National Championships start at 10am on Friday and continue until the five finals on Sunday afternoon. A record £12,000 prize fund is on offer and a total of 149 players (97 men and 52 women) from as far away as Northumberland, Guernsey and Jersey have entered.