SCOTTISH INT’L – 2014 Commonwealth arena christened

The best was saved till last at the Scottish International as Anand Pawar of India staged an improbable comeback to topple his Japanese opponent in the men’s singles, after Ellis/White […]

The best was saved till last at the Scottish International as Anand Pawar of India staged an improbable comeback to topple his Japanese opponent in the men’s singles, after Ellis/White had started the day as the only home pair to win a discipline with all other titles taken by Japan.

By Michael Burke, live in Glasgow. Photos:  Nia Powell and rights reserved (live)

This year saw the Scottish International Championships move from its long standing home at Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena to the new Emirates Commonwealth Arena in Glasgow, in what will be the first dry run for the 2014 , much like the BWF World Championships in 2011 was for the London 2012 Olympics.

The day started with the mixed doubles featuring the only remaining home based challengers, as Marcus Ellis / Gabrielle White (pictured) of England beat the new Dutch pairing of Bosch/Piek in relatively simple straight games. Ellis and White, both veterans of the tournament having won men’s and women’s doubles titles separately at the event in 2010, showed good composure to recover after a slow start. The Dutch led by a solitary point into the mid-game interval of the first game with Piek asserting herself well at the net, but this slender advantage was quickly overhauled as Ellis started to open up his power game, smashing through the opponents, winning 21-16.

The second game saw better attacking play by the Dutch but often a lack of patience left them frustrated as the English defence held firm. The Dutch trailed at the mid-game, and despite a recovery the win was not to be as Bosch saw a couple of his smashes fly into the net. Their fate was sealed by a poor line call to face the match point, after which the game was up and they lost, again to 16-21.

The second match on saw an even more one-sided game as Sayaka Takahashi (pictured) of Japan, who has reached both Grand Prix and Grand Prix Gold finals this year, took apart her Korean opponent, Kim Hyo Min in straight games. The first point aside, when the 17-year-old Kim wowed the crowd with a blinding cross-court smash defence, the match was as easy as Takahashi will get as she simply outmanoeuvred, out-defended and out-smashed her junior opponent despite some very evenly contested rallies, winning 21-6, 21-8 in only 25 minutes.

The first of the all-Japan finals was the men’s doubles with Kamura/Sonoda facing Saeki/Taohata. The match initially lacked intensity, as the pairs were slow to warm to the game. The lower seeded Saeki/Taohata played well and held the attack for much of the game, and as a result led until they took the end 21-16 despite some impressive defence play.

Kamura/Sonoda were energised by the change of ends and rushed to an 11-5 mid game interval lead. Athleticism by the pair and some great net play allowed them to force a decider and the third game was all level until 12-all after which Kamura/Sonoda honoured their ranking by staying just ahead until the close to win 21-17.

The women’s doubles again was an all-Japanese affair as second seeds Koharu/Miki took on Fukuman/Yonao, the pair that broke Scottish hearts in the semi-finals by beating the home favourites Cooper/Gilmour. There was not much separating the pairs throughout the first game, with high paced and high quality long rallies throughout, as both pairs were familiar with their game. Eventually extra points were required as the seventh seeds took the first game 23-21.

Fukuman/Yonao continued in the same vein in the second catching Koharu/Miki off guard to rush to a 9-2 lead, but the senior pair recovered to only trail by two at the mid game. Fukuman and Yonao never let go of the lead however and Miki clearly felt the pressure, hitting the shuttle into the net in three consecutive points. Despite fighting hard, they were unable to save the match as Fukuman/ Yonao went on to win 21-18.

The last match on court saw the 2010 champion Anand Pawar (India) take on Kazumasa Sakai (Japan) with Pawar looking strong having not dropped a game and finding strong support in the crowd from the local Indian community. The match however did not proceed as expected, as Pawar did not appear in the game at all slipping to an 11-1 deficit at the mid-game interval. His Japanese opponent outmanoeuvred and overpowered him compounded by simple errors. The second half saw Pawar compete better, feeling his way into the game, but the gap was too large as he succumbed 21-10.

Sakai could have been forgiven for thinking he was playing a different opponent in the second game as Pawar again competed far better in much longer and higher quality rallies. Pawar held a slender lead at the mid-game interval only to rush away to force the decider in the last match of the day as he took the game 21-11.

Sakai responded well to this turn-around in fortunes and the deciding rubber was some of the best badminton of the day, with the front line contest being the net play. Pawar managed to open up a small lead and held out to regain his old title, 21-17 the score in the final game.  In an elaborate celebration, he ripped off his shirt and hailed the crowd, clearly for him a victory to savour.

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