ALL ENGLAND 2013 Day 1 – Home favourite Ouseph out in qualification

Rajiv Ouseph looked uncomfortable came up against a strong Indian challenge in qualification, struggling against Anand Pawar and then losing to Sourabh Varma. By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent, live from […]

Rajiv Ouseph looked uncomfortable came up against a strong Indian challenge in qualification, struggling against Anand Pawar and then losing to Sourabh Varma.

By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent, live from Birmingham.  Photos: Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live).

Rajiv Ouseph (pictured left) returned to the in good form this year after success at the European Mixed Team Championships and the German Open. Looking to reach the heights of last year, when he beat Danish legend Peter Gade for the first time in the first round, he faced a challenge to get to the main draw as he started from qualification. He was favourite by seed to progress to the main draw in the men’s singles qualification, but fell to Indian Sourabh Varma late on in the day on Tuesday.

As the only men’s singles representative for England at his home tournament, Ouseph commented “It’s a special tournament, I grew up coming to watch with my mum and dad so obviously to be playing here is a dream.” Commenting on any added pressure “It’s the 5th or 6th time I’ve played here so I feel more comfortable. There is a little bit of pressure to perform but I just try to enjoy it and play for the fans.”

Rajiv gave those fans a scare in his first match, as he faced Indian Anand Pawar (pictured right), recent victor of the Scottish International. The first two games were very even with fast and flat play dominating the early exchanges. Pawar took the first 22-20 with powerful well-placed smashes controlling the end.

The second game was a similarly tense affair as Ouseph looked uncomfortable on court. Unlucky to break a string at 15-11 down, Ouseph recovered to force the decider but not without missing his first game point and then saving match points, the score 23-21.

The decider saw a reinvigorated Ouseph play much more aggressively and the change in tactics paid off as he raced to an 11-5 interval lead, which he quickly converted to 21-7 to take the match.

Speaking to the press afterwards about the match, Ouseph said, “I started a little bit slowly, he [Pawar] came out quite aggressive and I didn’t really match him in the first couple of sets, I was really struggling to find a rhythm on the court. I needed to stay more aggressive as I was too defensive in the first two games. I just thought I was getting a bit unlucky when I broke my strings and a few net cords went against me. It all sort of came together in the third set, hopefully I can carry that through into the next match.”

Unfortunately, the next match sealed his fate in the tournament, as he again looked uncomfortable on court, this time against Sourabh Varma (pictured left).  He started well and looked more settled than before, taking a 12-7 lead, but the mid-game interval seemed to break his concentration and Varma was able to pick off his attacks.

The second game was much closer, but Varma played with increasing confidence and led to the finish, the final score 21-13, 21-18.

“You can’t afford to chase games like that,” Rajiv commented after the match.  “I think I started quite well in the first game but he came back quite strongly and I didn’t really come back to that until it was too late.

“I tried to be a bit more aggressive in the second set but his defences were working quite well and I needed to be a bit more patient. I think I was trying to win the points too quickly.

“I’ve had some good wins in the last few weeks and I was looking forward to trying to do well here and in the main draw but obviously it wasn’t to be here today. We have a tournament next week [Swiss Open] so I will try to rectify some things in my game and do well in the next tournament.”

Ouseph spoke to Badzine about the future prospects of the England squad with the imminent departure of head coach Kenneth Jonassen, a man who had a large role in Ouseph’s rise to his highest world ranking of 11. “It’s a shame Kenneth is leaving, especially as he’s really helped me as a player.”

The proceedings for the new coach have not yet begun but Rajiv spoke of the future, “I’m excited for the new coach, a little bit nervous because it’s a big change, but I’m older and more mature now though, so I can look after myself a bit more.”

The full results for the day can be found here.

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About Michael Burke