POLISH INT’L 2011 – Mateusiak and Zieba unrivalled at home

The recently concluded 35th Yonex Polish International saw 5 different nations grab gold on Sunday after 4 days of fierce competition in Bialystok but none were prouder than home favourites […]

The recently concluded 35th Yonex Polish International saw 5 different nations grab gold on Sunday after 4 days of fierce competition in Bialystok but none were prouder than home favourites Nadia Zieba and Robert Mateusiak, who took the mixed doubles crown after being denied in the last year’s early rounds.

Story and photos: Janusz Rudzinski, Badzine Correspondent live in Bialystok. Additionnal photos : Piotr Kopyt

The biggest stars of the Polish International this year were obviously Nadia Zieba and Robert Mateusiak (photo here with his daughter during radio interview). At the moment the fourth pair in the mixed doubles world ranking, they are also local heroes, as they belong to Hubal, the top badminton club in Bialystok, the town in eastern Poland where this year’s edition was held.

Paradoxically, the mixed doubles rivalry was this time – by contrast with the last year when Mateusiak and Zieba (at the time Kostiuczyk) lost in the second round to a Hong Kong pair – at the lowest level of these championships, in comparison with other categories.

We wanted to show to the public in the town where our club is based that we are a pair on top of the world,” Mateusiak explained to Badzine.

Obviously it was a pity that this year we had no stronger opponents but on the other hand, we had recently two tournaments, German Open Grand Prix Gold and the All England Super Series so we are a bit tired and – frankly speaking – I played here with a small injury of my Achilles tendon,” he added.

In the final, Robert and Nadia faced Polish champions in mixed doubles of this year – Rafal Hawel and Kamila Augustyn. Before the final, Zieba said on Polish television: “We have generally a good draw, so I think we will only have a hard match in the final.”

It was from her side some courtesy but in fact she lost the final in Polish National Championships in the February to precisely this pair, though at the time, she was playing with her husband Dariusz instead of the injured Mateusiak.

So nobody was surprised that Mateusiak and Zieba won the final in Bialystok and it was the only title for Poland because Adam Cwalina and Michal Logosz (seeded 2, photo) lost the final to top-seeded Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov from Russia. The Russians were playing very well, often with Ivan approaching the net to destroy the Polish defense, using at the same time also the power of the giant Vladimir from the rear of the court. Cwalina however was also seen very active off court, helping with his new role as a Solibad ambassador – a collect for Solibad projects was done during the tournament.

The third chance for the host team to title was lost before the tournament when Poland’s #1 seed Przemyslaw Wacha withdrew from the men’s singles competition because of an injury. In this situation the brave Spaniard, Pablo Abian, seeded 2nd, was the logical contender and he came through with the title.

I am really happy to win here the second time in a row,” Pablo Abian (photo) said after his easy win against Ivanov.  “I was playing quite good, making no many mistakes and this was the most important thing to win the final.”

Very interesting was all the women’s singles rivalry, especially because of the presence of many good Japanese players. Kana Ito – the title defender – surprised the Polish spectators by being beaten by her compatriot Yui Hashimoto, who had already followed up three easy wins in qualification, by eliminating 4th-seeded Michelle Li from Canada in the first roun. In the semi-final, Hashimoto lost to another Japanese, Yuka Kusunose.

But despite everything, the winner was from Europe. The Ukrainian Larisa Griga (seeded 3) showed an impressive level of badminton skills throughout the tournament. In the final, she dominated but more spectacular was her victory in the semi-final when she beat an Indian would-be Cinderella-story, Arundhati Pantawane. It was actually Pantawane who came through qualifying to eliminate Russia’s 2nd-seeded Anastasia Prokopenko in the first round.

For me every game was the challenge. Quarterfinals and semifinals was really hard but I wanted to win and I played my best,” said a happy Larisa Griga.

The last final was exclusively Japanese. As a matter of fact, not only the final but also the entire women’s doubles semi-finals. The closest to breaking the Japanese monopoly were 2nd-seeded Ukrainians Mariya Ulitina and Natalya Voytsekh in quarter-finals. However, they lost their final game to Kana Ito and Asumi Kugo 21-23. Ito and Kugo were defeated in the final by top seeds Rie Etoh and Yu Wakita.

For complete results from the Yonex Polish , CLICK HERE

About Janusz Rudzinski