Dan Bethell got his Paralympic campaign off to a perfect start with a straight sets victory over home favourite Daisuke Fujihara in Tokyo.
Bethell took to the court on a historic day for badminton, which was appearing on the Paralympic stage for the first time, against a familiar opponent in the SL3 category.
Fujihara took an early lead and was ahead by four at one stage but the world no.2 surged back to take the first set 21-11.
The second set, like the first, contained some epic rallies – the longest of which spanned 73 shots – but Bethell remained in control.
The 25-year-old pulled away to win it 21-7 and wrap up victory in 44 minutes to become the early leader of Group B.
“I’ve played Fujihara many times and we always have really close matches,” Bethell said.
“He’s a really good player so I knew I had to be on my game. I felt like I had a good game plan going into this match and I stuck to it really well. I’m happy with the result.
“I feel really good, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.
“I’ve been training really well and been out here [in Japan] for a few weeks with really good preparation coming in, so I feel confident that I can go for the gold.”
Bethell is back on court on Friday when he takes on Indonesia’s world no.4 Ukun Rukarendi knowing victory will seal top spot in the group.
“Like Fujihara, we’ve played each other many times,” he said.
“He’s a great player – he’s one of the fittest so I’m preparing myself for long rallies, but I feel really good after that match.”
Thursday’s action sees Bethell’s three teammates begin their medal bids, with two of them up against each other.
Jack Shephard will take on Krysten Coombs in an all-British SS6 clash at 5am (BST) while the latter then plays Hong Kong’s Chu Man Kai at 9.20am.
First up on Thursday from a British perspective is Martin Rooke, who gets his WH2 campaigns underway against Thailand’s Dumnern Junthong at 1.40am.
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