Monday, March 9, 2009

High five for China - Richard Eaton

by Richard Eaton

China became the first nation ever to win all five titles in the open era at the All-England championships when Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng wrapped up the the men's doubles 21-17, 21-15 against Korea's Han Sang Hoon and Hwang Ji Man.

China had won all five in a world championship before, but that was in Beijing back in 1987, and this, in European conditions, was a far tougher task. It was also the first clean sweep in the open or amateur eras since 1948.

The success which really made it possible was that of Wang Yihan, the young unseeded player from Shanghai, who beat Tine Rasmussen, the top-seeded titleholder from Denmark who won the women's singles at only the second attempt, 21-19, 21-23, 21-11.

But the success which attracted the most attention was the repeat of the Olympic men's singles final, in which Lin Dan again beat Lee Chong Wei, the world number one from Malaysia, in straight games, though this was a closer match than the one at the Games.

The Chinese star beat the ambitious, hard-working Malaysian 21-19, 21-12, after beginning rather patchily, then grabbing his first important chance, and accelerating away impressively towards the end.

Asked how or why he won, Lin said: ”It wasn't tactical or anything – we are both good players. It was more psychological. I was focussed and calm. I think I played quite well. There were a couple of times in the first set where I didn't handle the situation the best I could and let him have an advantage. But I kept my form and managed to play well.”

Lin was also concerned to promote the right image of himself. “The fact that I have an outgoing personality might be seen as a bad thing, that I am a rebel. But I am anxious to show that I am quite a good person and for people to understand me better.”

However, for a while in the first game Lin faltered unexpectedly. From leads of 8-2, 10-6, and 16-12 he began to make errors, not all of them forced, allowing Lee to nudge his way up to 19-17.

Lee often lifted or pushed the shuttle to the backhand side of Lin, but with mixed success, and when it really mattered Lin sprang back to his best form again. A flat cross court was too difficult for Lee to contain, and the Malaysian put an overhead drop into the net to let Lin back in at 18-19, and thereafter the Chinese left-hander won three points quickly.

When he reached game point at 20-19, the rally was over in a flash, Lin serving accurately and following it up with a smash which got through immediately. That increased the pressure on the Olympic silver medallist, who had been only too aware he had lost eight of their nine previous meetings, and his expression and body language increasingly hinted at tension.

And from 14-12 Lin went through to the finish in one magnificent run of seven points. At the end, while shaking hands acorss the net, he pushed his face close to Lee's to show his comradeship, but when he really wanted to win Lin showed another side of himself – explosive, dynamic, and very professional.

Wang's win was victory for a good temperament, a good all-round game, and fresher, lighter movement. She was unable to convert a match point at 21-20 in the second game, which created a few alarms as Rasmussen had saved two against another Chinese player Jian Yanjiao the previous day.

But Rasmussen, whose preparation had been affected by a heel injury, only had the energy left to hang on, and against a player of the 21-year-old Wang's great potential, that was never likely to be enough.

“I didn't have any pressure,” said Wang, who had looked relaxed most of the time except the end of the second game. “I just really tried to play what I know – and it's nice to be able to do it that way.

“We both played well in the first two games, but in the third I think I was physically stronger and fitter.”

Asked if she thought about the title before the end of the match, Wang said no, but that she had imagined it before the match. “I did it secretly,” she said. “I imagined what I would do and what expression I would have! But when it came to the match I just focussed.”

Rasmussen said: "I started playing again - after a heel injury - only three days before the tournament, so I am very satisfied with reaching the final. Of course when you get there you always want more.

"I could feel it wasn't going in the right direction, even when I was winning, because the matches were going on too long. But before the tournament I would have guessed I would fallen over on the court.

"But I have to be pleased with what I did. I could easily have been out in the semi-finals," she added, referring to her saving two match points against Jian Yanjiao.

Earlier He Hanbin and Yu Yang had won the mixed doubles, and Zhang Yawen and Zhao Tingting the women's doubles.

Afterwards China's head coach, Li Yongbo, said: "We didn't think about winning all five titles. We mustn't think about outside factors, or we can't play the way we have."

Asked if China's controversial decision to skip the Super Series finals in Malaysia in December had been justified by this performance, Li answered, laughing: "Do you think we made the wrong choice?"

And asked if China would compete in the next Super Series event, Li replied: "It depends on each team and each circumstance. We have to look at what is best for each player. We didn't think the decision was controversial."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chinese clean sweep in All England finals

China claimed an historic clean sweep of all five All England titles at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham - the first time the feat has been achieved since Denmark in 1948 - on a day which saw Lin Dan claim his fourth singles title while unseeded Yihan Wang became women's champion at the first attempt.

XD: [3] He & Yu (Chn) bt Ko & Ha (Kor) 13/21, 21/15, 21/9 (55m)
MS: [2] Lin Dan (Chn) bt [1] Chong Wei Lee (Mas) 21/19, 21/12 (43m)
WD: [7] Zhang & Zhao (Chn) bt Cheng & Zhao (Chn) 21/13, 21/15 (48m)
WS: Yihan Wang (Chn) bt [1] Tine Rasmussen (Den) 21/19, 21/23, 21/11
MD: [7] Cai & Fu (Chn) bt Han & Hwang (Kor) 21/19, 21/15


The first match of the day was the Mixed Doubles final, with Korean qualifiers Ko & Ha taking on the third-seeded Chinese pair, Olympic bronze medallists He & Yu. The young Koreans got off to a great start, taking the first game as the errors piled up for the Chinese pair.

They struck back in the second though, attacking strongly and despite some tremendous defence, the Koreans were always behind as the match was levelled. The onslaught continued in the decider, with the Chinese taking the first ten points, and there was no coming back from that as the first title of the day went China's way - the fourth time in a row they have taken this title.


This was the much-awaited rerun of the Beijing Olympic final, with World & Olympic champion Lin Dan out to capture his fourth All England title and to prove he is worthy of the number one ranking - and with a 10/3 head to head record in his favour few were willing to bet against him.

Lin Dan threatened to run away with the first, opening up an 8-2 lead, but a number of errors allowed Lee to stay in touch, and at the interval the second seed led just 11-9. The Malaysian pulled level at 17-all, even led 19-17, but Lin Dan finished the stronger to take the lead.

The world champion held sway in the second, leading 11-8 at the interval and extending that to 18-12. A crosscourt smash found the line, Lee left one that just landed in and it was match point. A tremendous diving recovery from Lin Dan, Lee pushed it long, and Lin Dan had regained the All England title, his fourth victory in six years.

Lin Dan, who was eager to celebrate by going shopping, said: “I felt I played quite well but we both did and the real winners had to be the fans who saw the match.

“There were a couple of times in the first set when I let him get an advantage but I recovered and I thought I played well.”

Lee said: “It was a better match than our Olympic meeting but he has improved! He has got a psychological advantage now after beating me three times in a row recently. Next time I need to break up his rhythm. He is a good attacker and plays very fast.”


A Chinese victory was assured in this match, and it was the the experienced pair of Zhang & Zhao who made the better start, leading 11-5 in the first and getting the better of some tremendous rallies - including one at 96 shots - to take the first 21-13.

Trailing 11-10 in the second, the elder pair made their experience pay as they pulled ahead, reaching match point on 20-13. Two were saved, but on the third the the youngster's shuttle was erroneously called long to finish the match. A third title for China and third time lucky for Zhao Ting Ting, after two runners-up medals in previous years.


Another experience v youth clash, and it was the 21-year-old former World Junior Champion who made the early running, holding her nerve at the end of a tight first game to take the lead.

Top seed and defending champion Tine Rasmussen wasn't going to give up her title easily though, and the Dane tightened up her game, contined to get the better of the net exchanges, reached the second game interval leading 11-9 and looked to be getting on top as she extended the lead to 15-12.

Some careless errors let her opponent back into it though, and at 18-all, then 19-all it was in the balance. Some incredible defence from Rasmussen took her to game point, but two smashes from Wang gave her a championship point. Some tremendously determined from the Dane, and three rallies later we were heading for a decider.

Wang kept the pace high, and although Rasmussen was still finding some winners, she was under constant pressure, and the Chinese led 11-5 at the interval. At 16-9 Rasmussen was in need of another miracle comeback as in her semi-final, but her young opponent continued to pile on the pressure, and three consecutive errors made it 19-9. Another mistake gave Wang ten championship points. She needed just two of them, and as Rasmussen's final shot sailed long China was within one win of an unprecedented clean sweep in the open era..

Wang said: “In the third game I felt physically stronger. It was a pity I didn’t take the match point in the second game but I really enjoyed myself out there.

“I had secretly imagined what it would be like to win the title but when I started the match I just focused on what I had to do. I think I played in my peak form today.”


Only another victory by unseeded players could spoil China's day, but the seventh seeded Chinese pair, former world champions, started the last match of the day as overwhelming favourites.

The Korean pairing made a good start, reaching the first game interval 11-10 in the lead, but the Chinese started to get on top with some tremendous play in attack and defence, and a 19-15 lead was a good enough cushion to see them take the lead, 21-17.

Cai & Fu were always ahead in the second, and although the Koreans competed well they could never close the gap. A final midcourt smash and the Chinese pair went down on their knees in celebration.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

All England Semi-finals - Richard Eaton

by Richard Eaton

Lee Chong Wei signalled his determination to atone for his defeat in the Olympic final six months ago with an impressive performance in reaching the final of the All-England Open for the first time.

The top-seeded Malaysian destroyed Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic and world champion from Indonesia 21-8, 21-13 in little more than half an hour to earn an eagerly anticipated repeat encounter with Lin Dan, the hero of Beijing.

True, Hidayat looked a little slow after his superb but tiring preformance in bringing down Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, the day before, and going to three games with England's Andrew Smith the day before that. But Lee was explosive in attack, resilient in defence, and occasionally inspired as he contained the best shots that his celebrated opponent could throw at him.

The first game was one way traffic, partly because Taufik's error ratio was so high. The second saw Taufik play much better, and Lee's standard improved by even more. The highlight was a sensational rally at 13-12, when Taufik was well in the match, but no matter how hard he tried to push for a winner with smashes and attempted kills, Lee plunged around the court and got everything back.

The Malaysian then played an express sequence of piston-like mid-court exchanges, and finished the point with a winning jab. That took the momentum out of Taufik's partial recovery, and it was not long before Lee was making rapid progress, often with smashes to the body, which sometimes exposed the Indonesian as a little slow.

“Everyone wants to see a repeat of the Olympic final,” said Lee afterwards. “And I will do my best. It will be a difficult match.”

It will indeed, for Lin has won eight of his last nine meetings against the current world number one, and looked in very good form in ending the All-England title defence of his Chinese compatriot, Chen Jing.

He once again displayed his vast range of options, both in attack and defence, and his versatility in switching between them with disconcerting suddenness, to take an early 7-1 and stay well in front all through.

It was about halfway through the second game that Chen began to suffer further difficulties with an enduring back problem, and with the score at 21-12, 11-6 he retired. Both finalists should be relatively fresh for their showdown.

However it was women's singles semi-final between the other top seed, Tine Rasmussen, and the unseeded Chinese player Jiang Yanjiao which produced the best match and the best recovery in this and most other tournaments.

The Dane was so far behind, trailing by a game and 6-15, and then by 9-17, that her title defence seemed over, but somehow she came back to win 22-24, 25-23, 21-15. Rasmussen also saved match points at 19-20 and 22-23 in the second game, forsaking her usual robust attacking style and floating the shuttle around with pushes, clears and lifts, and gradually working her way back into it.

She managed to coax errors from her less experienced 22-year-old opponent, and by the time she had edged forward from 8-8 in the final game to 14-10 and 15-11 it had become evident she had the patience and determination to see the recovery through till the end.

Earlier however, nothing had seemed less likely. After missing a game point for the first game with a missed net shot from well above the height of the net, Rasmussen appeared to sink into a depression. Her body language slumped and her ability to attack diminished, perhaps hindered by the heel injury which had interrupted her preparation for much of the last two weeks.

But during the interval between games Rasmussen was exhorted to fight by Morten Frost, the four times former All-England, who also kept up a constant barrage of encouragement during the second half of the match.

“Morten told me to be patient and to fight,” said Rasmussen. “I think it was my patience more than anything which won it for me. I think it's the best comeback I have ever made and I feel great about it.

It was first time in 29 years that two Danes had reached the semi-finals of the women's singles, but Rasmussen will next play, not another Dane but another unseeded Chinese player, Wang Yihan.

Wang, a 21-year-old former world junior champion was a comfortable 21-11, 21-7 winner over the most surprising survivor, Nanna Brosolat, a 25-year-old from Copenhagen, who may however have been tired after coming through the qualifying competition.

Rasmussen Survives in All England Semis

Defending women's singles champion Tine Rasmussen is into another All England Final - but only just.

The 29-year-old Dane was a game down and trailing 14/4 in the second to dimunitive Chinese left-hander Yanjiao Jiang, but a tremendous fightback saw her save two match points before levelling, then going on to take the third after an hour's play. Having won the Malaysian and Korean Open titles in January, Rasmussen is chasing a hat-trick of Super Series titles.

Hopes of an all-Danish final were dashed when China's second seed Yihan Wang defeated surprise package Nanna Brosolat in straight games. This is Wan's first All England, but she will be boosted by victory in last week's German Open.

In the first men's semi-final world number one Chong Wei Lee dominated the first game against an out of sorts Taufik Hidayat, and although the Indonesian improved in the second, the top-seeded Malaysian pulled clear to complete a comfortable enough passage into the final, his first All England but his third Super Series final of the year.

There he will face World and Olympic champion Lin Dan, who reached his sixth successive All England final as he put out defending champion Chen Jin. Having barely survived in his quarter-final, Chen was clearly not in the form of last year, and in the second game looked to be struggling with a back injury. At the mid-game interval he called for the tournament doctor, but without being given any treatment decided he was unable to continue and conceded the match.

The men’s doubles final will feature No 7 seeds and former champions Cai Yun & Fu Haifeng of China against unseeded Korean pair Han Sang Hoon & Hwang Ji Man, who are ranked 160 in the world.

The women’s doubles final will be be an all-China final between No 7 seeds Zhang Yawen & Zhao Tingting, who knocked out Olympic champions and 2008 All England runners-up Du Jing and Yu Yang, and unseeded Cheng Shu & Zhao Yunlei, who followed up their quarter-final dismissal of the top seeds to claim a three-game win over Korean fifth seeds Ha & Kim.

In the mixed doubles Korean qualifiers Sung Hyun Ko & Jung Eun Ha followed up their defeat of England's Clark & Kellog with a tremendous comeback win over the Chinese pair of Zheng Bo & M Jin. Having lost the first on extra points they saved a match point in the second, then took the third as the Chinese pair's frustration grew. In the final they face China's third seeds Hanbin He & Yang Yu.

Sat 7th March, SEMI-FINALS:
Men's Singles:
[1] Chong Wei Lee (Mas) bt [7] Taufik Hidayat (Ina) 21/8, 21/13 (34m)
[2] Lin Dan (Chn) bt [3] Chen Jin (Chn) 21/12, 11/6 rtd (30m)

Women's Singles:
[1] Tine Rasmussen (Den) bt Yangjiao Jiang (Chn) 22/24, 25/23, 21/15 (60m)
[2] Yihan Wang (Chn) bt [Q] Nanna Brosolat (Den) 21/11, 21/7 (26m)

Men's Doubles:
Han & Hwang (Kor) bt [6] Lee & Shin (Kor) 21/17, 21/18 (25m)
[7] Cai & Haifeng (Chn) bt [5] Boe & Mogensen (Den) 23/21, 21/14 (40m)

Women's Doubles:
Cheng & Zhao (Chn) bt Ha & Kim (Kor) 21/23, 21/15, 21/17 (68m)
[7] Zhang & Zhao (Chn) bt [4] Du & Yu (Chn) 16/21, 21/16, 21/16 (71m)

Mixed Doubles:
[3] He & Yu (Chn) bt Limpele & Russkikh (Ina/Rus) 21/12, 21/14 (36m)
[Q] Ko & Ha (Kor) bt Zheng & Ma (Chn) 20/22, 24/22, 21/12 (61m)

Chen clings to title amidst quarter-final drama - Richard Eaton

by Richard Eaton

Chen Jin clung to his All-England title by the width of a net tape, after a terrific recovery, and amidst a storm of booing during a controversial finish to his quarter-final in the All-England Open.

It looked as though his unseeded opponent, Sho Sasaki, had come back from a five-point final game deficit to 20-20 when he leapt forward and dismissed a tight net shot from Chen with a lunging kill.

But the third-seeded Chinese player stood and pointed, objecting that there had been a foul, and umpire Mike Wright of New Zealand, after an agonising pause, and a slow gesture, agreed, calling the match to Chen by 14-21, 21-13, 21-19.

Sasaki looked unable to believe it, dropping his racket, complaining, and going walkabout, while Chen shook hands with all the officials.

This brought noisy hoots from the crowd and for a while it looked as though a major incident might blow up, as Chen had completed his formalities and began to make his way towards his kitbag.

But at the last moment the Sasaki got over his frustration, completed his circles of frenzied walking, and shook hands with the champion, and the umpire.

"His racket definitely touched the net," said Chen. "Though it wasn't his fault. It was my game and I am happy to take the point. Just as long as I won it doesn't matter to me how it happens."

Earlier Chen had been in trouble when he went a game and 7-12 down, but suddenly he achieved a better mixture of defence and attack and began coaxing errors from the nimble, patient Sasaki.

Chen was later joined in the semi-finals by Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic and world champion who reached the All-England final when he was only 17 but in ten years since has never won it.

The famous Indonesian was trailing by two points in both games against Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, but raised his game brilliantly when it most mattered to secure a 21-17, 21-18 win.

"When he got back like that it made me feel a little insecure," admitted the 32-year-old Gade, who is uncertain whether or not he will make one more attempt to win back the title he took in 1999.

"Normally I would make him make some mistakes, but I made a few and I'm disappointed about that. It was like a game of chess out there and he made some good decisions and played very well today."

It was also a disappointment for Gade because he had won three of the last five Super Series tournaments. However he felt he is still playing well enough to have a chance of going on at least to next year's world championships in Paris.

This might enable Gade, a wine-tasting buff, to finish his career in one of his favourite cities, for he feels that going on to the London 2012 Games is probably beyond him.

Later one of his unseeded compatriots fared much better. Nanna Brosolat, who upset Pi Hongyan, the world number four from France, to reach the quarter-finals, followed it with another confident performance and a 21-16, 21-16 win over Wong Pei Xian of Malaysia.

Taufik now plays Lee Chong Wei, the world number one from Malaysia, who conceded only 18 points in beating Ville Kang of Finland, while Chen's title defence took him to a semi-final with Lin Dan, the Olympic champion.

Chen looked superb as he crushed Joachim Persson, the sixth-seeded Dane, and the only remaining European 21-13, 21-6, and afterwards said he would be happy to coach any European youngsters if they were to come to Beijing.

Two Danes and two Chinese, however, have reached the women's singles semi-finals, which may be more to the taste of a predominantly European crowd.

Titleholder, Tine Rasmussen let slip a frightening seven match points in a row from 20-9 in the final game but still beat Yip Pui Yin of Hongkong 21-17, 18-21, 21-16, thus earning a match with Jiang Yanjiao, a surprise survivor.

And in the other semi, Brosolat, who has progressed further than any previous women's singles qualifier, plays Wang Yihan, the rising young world number 17. Wang had already beaten one compatriot who is a former All-England champion, Zhou Mi, and now beat another, Xie Xingfang, 21-19, 21-13, in a rather bloodless encounter.

The biggest surprises in the doubles came in the mixed. First Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir, the world champions from Indonesia, lost 21-13, 21-23, 21-16 to their compatriot Flandy Limpele and his Russian partner Anastasia Russkikh; then the Olympic champions from Korea, Lee Yong Dae and Lee Hyo Jung, lost to Zheng Bo, the titleholder from China, and his new partner Ma Jin, 13-21, 21-18, 21-18.

Friday, March 6, 2009

England pairs fall in Yonex All England quarter-finals

England's hopes of a Yonex All England title were dashed at the quarter-finals stage tonight when the last home hopes both went crashing at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

Gabby White and Jenny Wallwork fell in straight games to Olympic champions and 2008 runners-up Du Jin and Yu Yang, the fourth seeds from China, 21-6 21-8 in 29 minutes.

White and Wallwork, who are mentored by 2004 Olympic silver and 2006 world champion Gail Emms, just couldn't keep up with the Chinese.

But the England pair can still be well satisfied with their second-round win over Denmark's sixth seeds Lena Frier Kristiansen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl.

Fourth seeds Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg were England's last hopes as they went into mixed doubles action against Ko Sung Hyun and Ha Jung Eun.

But the European champions and 2007 runners-up were knocked out in a 54-minute three-game battle 21-16 15-21 21-11.

The opening game saw the England pair hold the Koreans until 7-7 before they ran away with the opener. But Clark and Kellogg hit back in the second game despite being pegged back from 15-11 to 15-15. Then a run of six points swept Clark and Kellogg to the game at 21-15.

In the decider Clark and Kellogg made the early running but the Koreans were level at 7-7 and never looked back with a match-winning surge from 14-9 to 20-10. Clark and Kellogg saved the first match point but the Koreans took it on the second match point 21-11.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yonex extend All England sponsorship to 31 years

BADMINTON England are celebrating today after agreeing an extension of their title sponsorship for the All England Open Championships with Yonex Co. Ltd.

The new agreement is for five years and will extend the current sponsorship to 2014.

This week’s Championship here in the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham is the 26th to be sponsored by Yonex, the world’s No 1 badminton brand.

But by continuing the sponsorship through to 2014, Yonex will become the longest title sponsors in UK sport.

Adrian Christy, Chief Executive of BADMINTON England, said: “We are delighted to be continuing such a successful partnership. The All England is the oldest and most prestigious tournament in world badminton.

“Next year’s Championships will be the 100th and I am delighted that the extension to our current deal with Yonex will start with us celebrating this great milestone in badminton history.”

Paul Jepson, managing director of Yonex UK, said: “Yonex, are proud to be associated with these magnificent championships and we are delighted to continue this long and successful partnership with BADMINTON England.

“The name Yonex is now synonymous with the All England and long may it continue. I know the founder of the Yonex Company, Mr Minoru Yoneyama, will be here again this week and so it is with perfect timing that we announce this good news to you today.”

Wallwork and White through to All England quarter-finals

Jenny Wallwork and Gabby White led the way once again on day three of the 99th Yonex All England Badminton Championships at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

They pulled off what was a surprisingly comfortable win over sixth seeds Lena Frier Kristiansen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark 21-12 21-8.

The England girls were clearly pumped up for the match and dominated their Danish opponents, taking just 32 minutes to finish off the seeded pair.

There was a fantastic atmosphere in the arena as many turned up to support the home nation, and this appeared to inspire the young girls.

“That’s the best we’ve ever played,” said White.

"They clearly had a game plan and with the advice of Gail Emms tactically got everything right, attacking from the first point, defending expertly and exposing the Dane’s weaknesses.

“We know one of the girls had been injured recently (Kristiansen) so we needed to get in their faces quickly, get on top of them. Gail knows them inside out, so with her tactical knowledge we had the best preparation we could have had."

Emms and Nathan Robertson defeated Juhl and Thomas Laybourn in the 2005 Yonex All England mixed doubles final.

Wallwork and White’s quarter-final opponents are expected to be Olympic champions and 2008 All England runners-up Du Jing and Yu Yang of China, who play France’s Laura Choinet and Weny Rahmawati later.

“They are Olympic champions but we need to go out there with the same confidence and game plan, and just try and get on top of them,” said Wallwork.

Andrew Smith is in second-round men's singles action later today against former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat, the seventh seed.

White is back in action later on when she and Chris Adcock take on European champions and fourth seeds Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg in the mixed doubles in the evening.

And the third day action finishes with the Anglo-Scottish pairing of Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier taking on Flandy Limpele of Indonesia and Anastasia Russkikh of Russia also in the mixed doubles.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smith through to All England second round for first time

Jenny Wallwork and Gabby White recorded England's first win on day two of the 99th Yonex All England Badminton Championships 2009.

And Andrew Smith came from behind against Chetan Anand in the men's singles to book a second-round clash with former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat.

The Yorkshire pair gave a magnificent display to beat their Malaysian opponents Liu Ying Goh and Hui Lin Ng 19-21 21-17 22-20.

The turning point in the match was in the second game as the English pair found themselves 7-13 down. A run of eight straight points then gave them a 15-13 lead, as they went on to level the match.

Although squandering two match points in the third, they took the contest at the third attempt in what was a hard-fought, deserved victory.

Smith got off to a slow start in his match, losing the first game 21-6 before hitting back hard to beat Anand 21-17 21-12 and claim a place in the second round for the first time.

Smith said: "I hadn't played much since Friday at the German tournament so it took a bit of time to get into it.

"I didn't start very well but I slowly got into it. I was playing too slow and had to speed up my game."

But there were some disappointments on the second day of the Championships, particularly the withdrawal of British Olympic star Nathan Robertson through illness.

He was struck down by a virus, forcing him and Anthony Clark, the eighth seeds, to withdraw from the men’s doubles. It also denied fans the chance to see Robertson take on Clark in the mixed doubles in what would have been the match of the day.

Fourth seeds Clark and Donna Kellogg received a walkover into the second round where they could meet Chris Adcock and Gabby White if the teenagers win their opening match.

Men’s doubles pairing Chris Langridge and David Lindley battled well with Holland’s Jorrit De Ruiter and Jurgen Wouters but went down 21-14, 12-21,
22-20 on the third match point.

Nicola Cerfontyne and Rachel Howard had the difficult task of taking on fourth seeds and Olympic champions Du Jing and Yu Yang of China in the women’s doubles. The Chinese proved too much for the English pairing as they were comprehensively beaten 21-7, 21-7.

Another disappointment, this time in the men’s doubles, saw Super Series Masters finalists Chris Adcock and Robert Blair lose out to Denmark’s Anders Kristiansen and Simon Mollyhus 19-21 21-17 21-12.

Richard Eidestedt and Andrew Ellis put up one of the performances of the day despite losing to 2007 champions Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong 15-21 21-7 21-19.

Anglo-Scottish women’s doubles pairing Mariana Agathangelou and Imogen Bankier failed to produce a win to lift the home fans, as they went down 21-17 21-16 to China’s Pan Pan and Qing Tian.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pittard through to main draw at Yonex All England

COVENTRY’S Jill Pittard moved confidently through the women’s singles qualifying rounds into the main draw on day one of the Yonex All England Championships at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

The new English National champion took her opening qualifying match with a good win over third seed Anu Nieminen of Finland 21-14 21-14. And the 31-year-old Land Rover engineer then overcome Diana Dimova of Bulgaria 21-13 21-8 to earn a place in the main draw, where she will face Pui Yin Yip of Hong Kong tomorrow (Wednesday, 10am).

Pittard said: “I was surprised how easily I beat Nieminen but it was my priority to get through to the main draw. But it will be tough tomorrow.”

But there was disappointment for National men’s singles champion Rajiv Ouseph (Middx) and runner-up Carl Baxter (Avon). Ouseph came from a game down to lead Scott Evans of Ireland in his first qualifying test and looked to be on the way to victory when he led 13-11 in the third.

But the Irishman, who lost to Ouseph 21-5 21-19 in the final of the Yonex Irish International in early December, clawed his way back to 14-14 before going on to snatch victory 21-17 9-21 21-19.

Minutes earlier Canadian-born Baxter had been beaten by Anand Pawar of India 18-21 21-17 23-21 despite having led 2-18 in the decider. Afterwards he said: “I became too impatient to win. I was trying to force the issue all the time. He was lucky towards the end but played well.”

Baxter, who lost to Pawar 22-20 in the third game of their quarter-final clash at the Bank of Scotland International in November, added: “I was expecting to face Rajiv in the next round but he lost as well, which was a complete shock.”

England’s other singles disappointment saw Rachel Howard fall in the second qualifying round to Denmark’s Nanna Brasolat Jenssen 21-12 21-9. But at least Howard is through to the main women’s doubles draw after she and Nicola Cerfontyne were promoted from the qualifying draw.

There was agony for Robin Middleton (Yorks) and Mariana Agathangelou (Avon), who were one point away from a place in the main draw of the mixed doubles. In fact, they had three match points against third seeds Johannes Schoettler and Birgit Overzier, the pick of them coming from an amazing cross-court winner by Middleton at 21-20. But Middleton then put his serve out and the England pair were finally edged out by the Germans 8-21 22-20 24-22.

But Yorkshire’s Sarah Bok and Andrew Ellis went through to the main draw when they defeated Dutch pair Ruud Bosch and Paulien van Dooremalen 22-20 21-18. Middleton will get a second chance to make the main draw later tonight when he and Marcus Ellis face India’s Chetan Anand and Diju Valiyaveetil in their final men’s doubles qualifier.

Rob Adcock (Notts) and Dean George (Herts) meet Guo Zhendong and Xu Chen and Andrew Bowman (Scotland) and Martyn Lewis (Wales) take on Rasmus Bonde and Mikkel Delbo Larsen for places in the main draw in the qualifying day’s final matches.

The first day of the Championships was made extra special by a visit from the Barclays Premier League football trophy – with several top stars, including Rexy Mainaky and Lee Chong Wei being photographed with the trophy.