Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pittard triumphs at last in English Nationals thriller

COVENTRY'S Jill Pittard stole the show on finals day at the English National Badminton Championships at Manchester Velodrome this afternoon when she finally won the women's singles title after three final defeats.

But on a day when European mixed doubles champions Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg made it a hat-trick of titles, Kellogg won her third women's doubles title in a row and her seventh in total, and Rajiv Ouseph retained his men's singles crown, Pittard lifted her first title but not before putting her fans through the wringer.

It took her seven match points to get the better of three-time champion Elizabeth Cann, the Jersey player and England No. 1 who inflicted one of those three final defeats on Pittard two years ago.

The Land Rover calibration engineer won the first game 21-19, dropped the second 14-21 and looked to be home and dry at 20-17 in the third. But Cann pulled back to 20-20 and then saved six match points before gaining the first of two match points for herself at 24-23 and again at 25-24.

But Pittard wouldn't be denied and on her seventh match point she finally saw her dream come true by winning 27-25 after a 57-minute final.

Pittard, who was dropped from the England squad last summer and is not in the team to tackle the European Team Championship in Liverpool from February 10-15, said being left out made her more determined to win. And her celebrations at the end showed how delighted she was.

"I shouldn't be winning this title at 31," she said. "And I don't know whether I'll be back next year. I only wanted to win it once. There aren't many people who work full time and get to four National finals. And I shouldn't be winning as a full-time worker and a part-time player.

"But I knew I had one more chance. I owe a big thanks to Mike Adams at Loughborough and Lorraine Cole in Birmingham. After I'd been dropped from the England squad I would have had nowhere to train but for them.

"Maybe the England selectors will take note, especially with the Sudirman Cup and the World Championships coming up this year."

Looking back on the final she said: "When I got to 20-17 in the third I thought 'I can't lose with three match points'. But she got back and Pittard had to dig deep before her final dream came true.

Ouseph (Middlesex) eased to a straight game victory over world No 35 Carl Baxter, the Winnipeg-born Avon player who was playing in his first Nationals. Ouseph didn't drop a game on the way to the title, beating Baxter 21-16 21-15.

Finals day began with Clark and Kellogg winning their third mixed title against Chris Langridge and Sarah Bok, the pair who had not won a game together, let alone a match, going into these Nationals. They put up a spirited display against the World No4 pair but Clark and Kellogg won 21-10 21-19.

Kellogg's women's doubles title defence was far less straightforward as she and Suzanne Rayappan, the top seeds, took on rising stars Jenny Wallwork and Gabby White.

Kellogg and Rayappan took the first game 21-14 but back roared the young Leeds pair to take the second 21-15. But the third was a nail-biter. Kellogg and Rayappan led 18-14 and moved to two match points at 20-18. Wallwork and White recovered to lead 21-20 but White was service faulted on the first of their two match points. In the end Kellogg and Rayappan won on their fourth match point 25-23 after 59 minutes.

In the last final Nathan Robertson made up his mixed doubles disappointment when he and Clark defeated Robert Blair and Chris Adcock 21-13 21-11. That gave Clark a record-equalling eighth men's doubles title alongside Simon Archer's eight from 1994-2001. For Robertson it was his seventh men's doubles.

English National Badminton Championships (Velodrome, Manchester)

Men's Singles Semi-Finals:
(1) Rajiv Ouseph (Middx) bt Ben Beckman ((Surrey) 21-11 21-13
(2) Carl Baxter (Avon) bt (3) Harry Wright (Lancs) 21-7 21-16
Final: Ouseph bt Baxter 21- 16 21-15

Women's Singles Semi Finals:
(1) Elizabeth Cann (Jersey) bt (4) Sarah Walker (Essex) 21-17 21-10
(2) Jill Pittard (Warks) bt (3) Helen Davies (Cheshire) 21-11 21-13
Final: Pittard bt Cann 21-19 14-21 27-25

Men's Doubles Semi Finals:
(1) Anthony Clark (Notts) & Nathan Robertson (Notts) bt (3) Richard Eidestedt (Bucks) & Andrew Ellis (Yorks) 18-21 21-13 21-19
(2) Chris Adcock (Notts) & Robert Blair (Leics) bt (4) Chris Langridge (Surrey) & David Lindley (Notts) 22-20 15-21 21-18
Final: Clark & Robertson bt Adcock & Blair 21-13 21-11

Women's Doubles Semi Finals:
(1) Donna Kellogg (Derby) & Suzanne Rayappan bt (4) Sarah Hardaker (Hants) & Jo Nicholas (Lancs) 21-13 21-6
(2) Jenny Wallwork (Yorks) & Gabby White (Yorks) bt Mariana Agathangelou (Avov) & Sarah Bok (Yorks) 19-21 21-16 21-18
Final: Kellogg & Rayappan bt Wallwork & White 21-14 15-21 25-23

Mixed Doubles Semi Finals
(1) Anthony Clark (Notts) & Donna Kellogg (Derby) bt (4) Chris Adcock (Notts) & Gabby White (Yorks) 21-12 21-11
Chris Langridge (Surrey) & Sarah Bok (Yorks) bt (2) Nathan Robertson (Notts) & Jenny Wallwork (Yorks) 21-18 18-21 21-16
Final: Clark & Kellogg bt Langridge & Bok 21-10 21-19

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