OLYMPICS Day 1- Early setback for home mixed pair

In the early group stages, the home mixed doubles pair of Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier (pictured) were dealt a significant blow to their Olympic medal hopes, losing to the […]

In the early group stages, the home mixed doubles pair of Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier (pictured) were dealt a significant blow to their Olympic medal hopes, losing to the Russian pair of Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeri Sorokina.

By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

The Russian victory, which did not come easy at 14-21, 21-9, 21-18, now leaves the home favourites needing to beat Michel Fuchs and Birgit Michels of Germany and the Chinese World Champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei to be sure to progress.

The Brits showed a solid attacking start with no apparent nerves for last year’s World Championship finalists.  Adcock and Bankier dominated the early exchanges and particularly the service returns to take an 11-6 lead into the mid-game interval.

With both powerful and clever play, Adcock deceived Nikolaenko with his mix of smashes and drops leading to all too frequent tactical mistakes.  Bankier, who was incredibly quick at the net, was able to outplay an anonymous Sorokina to easily cut out the returns, eventually the Brits taking the game 21-14.

The second game saw a much better start by Nikolaenko and Sorokina (pictured right) as they took an early 7-3 lead.  Sorokina was a changed player with an inspired recovery to enter the mid-game interval with a commanding 11-3 lead, on a rally where Bankier was induced to dive in vain to retrieve a drop.

The pace of the game was far slower than the opener, with the Russians never looking challenged with their new-found control.  Staying patient, Bankier and Adcock played with resolve to string three points together from 16-5 down to keep the game alive but their effort was short lived.  Adcock rolled an ankle in the point to go down 19-8 but appeared to shake this off and despite the efforts to save the game, the Russians took 11 game points at the first attempt to win 21-9.

The third game saw tense early exchanges with a poor call against the British pair with a clear good smash denied them, but the scoring remained level.  Bankier showed good anticipation and great execution at the net and began to outplay her Russian counterpart, lifted by the home crowd.

Despite good defence, the British pair struggled to get the attack and Nikolaenko appeared to get into the match at the decisive moment with a smash to go up 19-16, with the two match points to the Russians at 20-18 taken at the first opportunity.

“We are very, very disappointed. We came here for a win,” Chris Adcock was quoted by Badminton England as saying. “But this is the group stage and we know two wins will still take us through.

“They altered their tactics in the second game and got back into the match and the deciding game was a bit scrappy.  We won the first convincingly but then they stopped lifting and got back into it.”

“I struggled at the net today. My job was very difficult and she played very well,” added Bankier.  “It was the first time we had played them although we had studied videos. But it was the same for them.

“At the start of the match the reaction of the crowd really helped us and the support was fantastic. Winning or losing, they were always behind us.

“We still have two very important matches to come. We aren’t down and out.”

Mixed doubles dealt out the most engaging action on the day overall.  The seeded pairs emerged unscathed but three matches were in closer encounters.  Robert Mateusiak / Nadiezda Zieba actually perpetrated the first upset, edging Japan’s Ikeda/Shiota in two.

Meanwhile, Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing dropped a one-sided second game before hanging on to beat Malaysia’s Chan/Goh in three.  Theirs was the second match on the day to be contested by two pairs ranked in the world’s top ten.  The first was in women’s doubles, and Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna (pictured above) of Japan pulled off a minor upset by coming back from a game down to beat Malaysia Open champions Pedersen/Rytter Juhl.

The biggest upset of the day, however, came at the very end, when India Open champions Bodin Issara / Maneepong Jongjit (pictured right) put down world #6 Mohammad Ahsan / Bona Septano for the first time, taking just over half an hour to take it in two games.  The Thais, who were unable to follow up their first Superseries title with a good performance at their home Thailand Open last month due to an injury in the first round, are looking strong to advance to the knockout round, or even win the group, as they now face 4th seeds Ko/Yoo.

Not only did the Koreans falter in their first game against the Cwalina/Logosz, but the Thais have won their last two encounters.

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About Michael Burke