Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Denmark overcome early setback to clinch Euro title

By Raphael Sachetat, Badminton World Federation

Denmark overcame a 0/2 lead from England to clinch their 8th title in a row, beating the local heroes in a thrilling final.

The English squad couldn’t be more disappointed. So close, yet so far. Things had started off the best way for England, with Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg against an unexpected line up in the name of Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christina Pedersen, the second best pair in Denmark, when everyone thought Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Thomas Laybourn would have been featured.

But the purpose was obviously to give the youngsters experience, as a result of which, Clark and Kellogg gave England a winning start with a 21/10 – 23/21 victory. But the biggest surprise of the day saw Andrew Smith beat Joachim Persson in the second match.

Persson was way favourite in spite of his lack of form lately, but Smith played beautifully in the first game while Persson had trouble getting the engine starting. In the second game, Persson had gotten his game together and led 18/15 but Smith was helped by the local fans, who shouted “out” back to back on one of Persson’s long shuttle.

The English may have played one of them, but instead let it drop to get the point. Few minutes later, Persson was arguing for a dubious line call, which got him aggravated, frustrated with his play as well as the lack of luck towards the end. Smith scored 5 points to lead 20/18 after Persson lost focus and in spite of one match point saved by the Dane, Smith was giving an unexpected lead to his team-mates.

“Joachim has not been playing as well lately as he had at the end of last year, he is in a bit of a slump. He played too much in Smith’s strength tonight. Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to prepare for the All England. But at that stage, at 0/2, We knew it would then be difficult for us to win, but we remained focused and confident,” said Kenneth Jonassen, acting as a coach for the first time.

“But then, Tine put it back together and got us back on track as she was way above Elisabeth Cann. It gave us some confidence.” added Jonassen.

The world number one indeed didn’t have to push her talent to outplay Elisabeth Cann, who was trailing during the whole match for a final 21/14 – 21/10 score.

The men’s doubles promised to be a battle of the nerves between the experienced Nathan Robertson and Clark – who had done an astonishing job in the mixed – and the less experienced Mathias Boe and Casrten Mogensen – who still have been involved in some important matches before, even if they were not necessarily the leading pair in the squad at the time.

And the Danes delivered, winning in three hard fought games 21/17 – 16/21 – 21/15, at the great satisfaction of their coach : “I think the key to this tie was the men’s doubles. Carsten and Matthias played very well in the first and deciding game. They proved they could focus but most importantly that they gained a lot on mental strength,” said Jonassen.

“At 2/2, we were then relying on the women’s double. We believed in Kamilla’s experience and Maria’s good defense and mobility,” added the Dane.

And the last and deciding point was an undecided battle between Kellogg and Jenny Wallwork against Juhl and Roepke. Although the “rookie” Roepke was nervous, she overcame it quickly – and became rather confident through out the match.

“I was nervous at the beginning but then we played well so it was ok,” said Roepke, the daughter of the legend Lene Koppen.

“ I knew that they were nervous too. On my hand, I had played in team events in the Uber Cup in the Netherlands and then in Indonesia last year, while Jenny didn’t,” added Roepke.

She and Juhl gave no chance to their opponents, who tried to play on Roepke rather than her taller partner, but it wasn’t sufficient to destabilise the Danes, who went on to a 21/14 – 21/15 success before standing on the top spot of the podium together with their team-mates, for the 8th time in a row.

“I am very satisfied with this victory, of course, because we won, of course, but also because we were here to test some players under a new kind of pressure. The mixed, for instance, tonight had never been under such a team pressure before. And all through out the week, some showed some some mental strength, and for others, we’ll need to work a bit more on that aspect of their game, but overall it was a great experience for the players,” said Jonassen.