OLYMPICS Day 4 – British campaign ends

The home chances at the Olympics all faded today as both Rajiv Ouseph and Susan Egelstaff let must-win matches slip away,to win their groups and progress against Kevin Cordon of […]

The home chances at the all faded today as both Rajiv Ouseph and Susan Egelstaff let must-win matches slip away,to win their groups and progress against Kevin Cordon of Guatemala and Sayaka Sato of Japan respectively.

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

With the failure of Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier in the mixed doubles, British hopes for a solid performance by a home shuttler logically fell on Rajiv Ouseph (pictured left).  Ouseph, the world #25, was the only Great Britain player seeded at these home Olympic Games.

The 25-year-old London native, though, was to face the dangerous Kevin Cordon of Guatemala.  The stakes were high after both players had beaten the other group M player, Sweden’s European Championship runner-up Henri Hurskainen.

Kevin Cordon (pictured right) has good memories of this arena as he shocked Wembley crowds last August by knocking out none other than Chen Long on the first day of the 2011 World Championships. Cordon was looking to repeat the performances that led to that quarter-final appearance, but he started badly, Ouseph playing well to take a first game from the Guatemalan.  Cordon looked hurried and succumbed to Ouseph’s languid power and measured shot selection.  The Brit took a run of seven successive points to build an unassailable lead, and took the opening game 21-12 at the third opportunity.

The second game saw a much improved Cordon, and playing against the drift appeared to aid his attacking style.  Although Ouseph saved 3 game points, some hard hitting from Cordon took the match to a deciding third game.

A very tight final game saw Rajiv Ouseph lead into the mid-game interval 11-9, but then he had to move to the less favoured end.  The two men exchanged points equally but nervous play saw Ouseph lose his lead as a smash and later a drive found the middle of the net.

Again he pushed a shot wide for Cordon to level at 16-all, and this was followed by another tense moment for the crowd as Ouseph pushed the following serve return into the net.  These nerves eventually proved to cost him dearly, as Cordon won at his first opportunity, the final score being 12-21, 21-17, 21-19.

“In the third I was trying to keep a lead but it got very tight at the end. He just played the last couple of points better than me,” a Badminton England press release quoted Ouseph as saying.

“I was trying to get the net but if was difficult for me to lift because of the drift. My length was getting a bit shorter. There was just a big drift. I wasn’t able to deal with that at the end.

“The whole experience for me has been really good and having the crowd really loud has been brilliant.  There was a point in the third when I was 6-2 down and they really cheered me back into it. I was really thankful to them for that.”

Earlier, Susan Egelstaff (pictured left), who had recently recovered from a serious injury to her leg last September, looked to follow her earlier victory over Maja Tvrdy to progress to the knockout stages of her first Olympics.  Just as Ouseph did shortly thereafter, Eglestaff too fought hard to win her first game against her Japanese opponent Sayaka Sato (pictured below), a youngster ranked 22 places above her.

Sato fought well in the second and, despite nervous moments, managed to hold off a late recovery by Egelstaff to level the match.  Unfortunately for the Scot, the ghost of her injury and interrupted preparations showed, as tiredness crept into her game.  An increasing number of errors led to her conceding an early lead and eventually the match, as Sato won it 18-21, 21-16, 21-12 and earned the right to take a shot at Tine Baun in the first round of the elimination playoff.

“Obviously on paper she was expected to beat me but it was nice for me to put up such a good fight,” Egelstaff said, as quoted by Badminton England.  “But if I was going to win, I think I knew I was going to have to win it in two.

“Even in the second and third games, I don’t think I played badly. She was just obviously good enought to change her game.  I can go away knowing I played as well as I could. It’s been great and it’s nice to have played well. It makes the whole experience that much better.”

The last action seen by British shuttlers at the 2012 Olympics will come shortly when mixed doubles pair Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier face World Champions Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei, to whom they lost that final in the same arena almost 12 months ago.  However, they are only playing for pride as with two losses they have already been eliminated, and are unable even to topple the Chinese pair from the top spot in Group A.

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