ANTHONY CLARK and Donna Kellogg each won two titles at the English National Badminton Championships at Manchester Velodrome this afternoon.
But best of all, they beat their great friends and rivals Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Gail Emms (Herts) for the first time in a thrilling mixed doubles final before returning to the action later to win the men's and women's doubles respectively, Donna in partnership with Gail.
Clark and Kellogg had lost in the World Championship final against Commonwealth gold medallist Robertson and Emms in Madrid in September just as they had lost in this National final last year in straight games.
But today they got a sell-out finals day off to a rousing start by taking the first game 23-21. Robertson and Emms pulled back to take the second 21-14.
In the decider Clark and Kellogg were on the brink of victory at 21-17 but needed their fourth match point before a great Clark net shot got them home 22-20 in 65 minutes to score their first ever victory over Robertson and Emms, who were also losing to an England pair for the first time since emerging on the senior scene together. Clark and Kellogg's win denied them a fifth National title together.
Clark said: "It's the first time we've ever beaten them in a tournament. The shuttles were slower and that helped. Nathan and Gail are too good when the shuttles are really fast. But we worked hard at turning strong defence into attack.
"It's a credit to English badminton that we have so many good pairs."
Kellogg said: "This performance will give us a massive boost going into the All England."
Clark returned to the court for the last final to make it two titles on the day and his sixth men's doubles in all when he and Robert Blair (Leics) , the world silver medallists, beat Chris Langridge (Surrey) and last year's losing finalist David Lindley (Notts) 21-15 21-15.
Kellogg also made it a day of double delight when she and Emms, the European champions, retained their women's doubles title and made it their fourth victory together in beating Natalie Munt (Herts) and last year's runner-up Joanne Nicholas (Lancs) 21-17 21-17.
What a day for Clark and Kellogg, who were also both celebrating new sponsorship contracts with Head.
Second seed Nick Kidd retained his men's singles title in his third consecutive final appearance, beating fellow Bucks player Nathan Rice 21-15 21-15.
He then admitted he almost pulled out of the tournament. Kidd said: "I was running on Tuesday and strained my calf. On Thursday I seriously thought about pulling out but the physios and my coach Sara Sankey put me right."
His only complaint after winning was the absence of World No 17 Andrew Smith (Hants) and he issued a 'come and get me' challenge.
"I wanted Andrew Smith to come and play here," said Kidd. "But after winning here I now think I am the No 1 player. It's a real shame Andrew wasn't here.
"I can't understand it. He's a very talented player and there's a lot to be gained by winning this title. The winner gains a lot of confidence and also gains you a title. I can't understand why he doesn't want to go for it."
Jersey's Elizabeth Cann (representing Middlesex) regained the women's singles title she won in 2005 by beating Jill Pittard (Warks) 21-19 21-17. It was agony for Pittard, the Land Rover calibration engineer from Coventry, who has now lost three Nationals finals.
The fourth English National Championships were staged in Manchester thanks to the support of Badminton England, Manchester City Council, Hi-Tec, Carlton, www.sportsdiscount.com with support from the Manchester Evening News.
NICK KIDD is one win away from a successful defence of his English National Badminton title at the Manchester Velodrome after knocking out Toby Honey of Surrey 21-15 21-17 in the semi-finals.
In a sell-out final he will face fellow Bucks player Nathan Rice, who reached his first final by knocking out top seed Rajiv Ouseph (Middx) in his first win of four meetings against the reigning European junior champion.
Rice won 14-21 21-12 21-19 but had to win six of the last seven points to come from behind and beat Ouseph.
Afterwards he said: "In the first three matches against him this season my concentration wasn't at its best and I thought things were going the same way after tonight's first game. But I focused better in the second and third games."
Kidd came through the tournament's longest match in the quarter-finals when he beat two-time champion Aamir Ghaffar (Middx) in a repeat of last year's final. Once again it went to three games before Kidd won 27-25 15-21 21-16 in 73 minutes.
Kidd has been asked to tone down his usual on-court celebrations after Honey's brother Matthew challenged him at the end of the match. Umpire Elaine Senior calmed the situation and referee Keith Hawthorne said the umpire had asked Kidd to tone it down.
Matthew Honey was involved in another flare-up earlier in his men's doubles with Chris Adcock (Notts), who was up against his brother Robert Adcock (Notts) and Robin Middleton (Yorks). Honey had celebrated an easy kill at the net but Middleton took exception only to be restrained by his partner before losing 24-22 23-21.
In the women's singles Jill Pittard hopes for third time lucky in her third final. Last year's runner-up from Coventry will face Jersey's 2005 champion Elizabeth Cann (representing Middlesex) in tomorrow afternoon's sell-out finals.
Unseeded Cann booked her place beating 17-year-old second seed Michelle Cheung (Bucks) in the quarters and 1998 finalist Rebecca Pantaney (Gloucs) in the semi-finals, both in straight sets.
World, Commonwealth and National champions Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Gail Emms (Herts) will meet Anthony Clark (Notts) and Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire) in a repeat of the world and nationals finals. European champions Emms and Kellogg are through to the women's doubles final and are favourites to retain their title after beating Sarah Bok and Liza Parker in straight games. They will face Natalie Munt and Jo Nicholas in the final after their three-game win over third seeds Suzanne Rayappan and Jenny Wallwork 21-18 20-22 21-14 in a 60 minute duel.
World silver medallists Robert Blair and Anthony Clark put out Adcock and Honey 21-10 21-7 as Clark chases his second title with Blair and his sixth in all. But their will be no fairytale finish for Simon Archer and Chris Hunt - although theirs was the last semi-final on court.
They put up another great effort but Chris Langridge and David Lindley, who reached the final last year with Archer, took the match 23-21 21-14.
In the women's
DEFENDING champion Nick Kidd won the battle of champions present and past when he overcame Aamir Ghaffar in the quarter-finals of the English National Badminton Championships at the Velodrome in Manchester's Sportcity today.
Second seed Kidd (Avon) edged out sixth seed Ghaffar (Middx) 27-25 15-21 21-16 in 73 minutes in the longest match of the tournament so far to set up a semi-final tonight against fourth seed Toby Honey (Surrey).
Kidd had lost to Ghaffar in the 2005 final but beat him in three games last year.
Honey beat promoted reserve Mark Sellwood (Warks), a surprise quarter-finalist, 21-16 21-13.
In the other half of the draw top seed Rajiv Ouseph (Middx) beat eighth seed Ben Beckman (Surrey) 21-6 21-18.
The reigning European junior champion, who has lost to Kidd in the last two semi-finals, now faces third seed Nathan Rice (Bucks) for the fourth time this season, having won their other three encounters.Rice beat fifth seed Andrew Ellis (Yorks) 21-11 21-16.
In the women's singles London 2012 prospect and second seed Michelle Cheung, 17, fell in the quarter-finals for the second year in a row, beaten by 2005 champion Elizabeth Cann (Middx), who is unseeded this weekend.
She faces 1998 finalist Rebecca Pantaney (Gloucs) after the fourth seed beat Helen Ward (Yorks) 21-7 21-13.
Top seed and 2006 runner-up Jill Pittard (Warks) beat Laura Cousins (Herts) 21-17 21-11 and she now meets Caroline Westley (Essex), who battled against a hamstring injury as well as 15-year-old Panuga Riou (Hants) 21-12 21-15.
In the mixed doubles World and Commonwealth champions Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Gail Emms (Herts) kept on course for a National and world final rematch with great pals Anthony Clark (Notts) and Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire).
Emms and Kellogg, the European champions, remain favourites to retain their women's doubles title while world silver medallist Clark and Robert Blair are men's doubles favourites despite the surprise quarter-final presence of former six- times champions Chris Hunt (Lancs) and Simon Archer (Worcs), who followed up their second-round win over Dean George and Chris Tonks with a quarter-final win this afternoon over Harry Wright and Matthew Hanson 21-18 22-20.
The English Nationals are proving so successful on this fourth year in Manchester that tomorrow's finals of the event - backed by Badminton England, Manchester City Council, Hi-Tec, Carlton and sportsdiscount.com with support from the Manchester Evening News - is a virtual sell-out.
For further information and up-to-date results see www.badmintonengland.co.uk or www.nationalbadmintonchamps.co.uk
AAMIR GHAFFAR survived a scare today as he set about trying to recapture his men's singles title at the English National Badminton Championships at Manchester Velodrome today.
The 27-year-old England international from Middlesex was hit in the left eye by the shuttle in his opening clash against Hampshire's Steve Smith before winning 21-9 22-20.
Ghaffar, the sixth seed, needed treatment at a game up and 14-13 in the second game but then had to save a game point at 19-20 before winning the 29-minute match.
In his second-round contest the 2004 and 2005 champion and 2006 runner-up beat Gloucestershire's Ben Witham 21-9 21-19 in just 9 minutes to set a likely quarter-final clash with second seed Nick Kidd, the Bucks player who beat him in last year's final.
Ghaffar, fourth in the Commonwealth Games, said: "I can still feel it but it didn't affect my play. I'm OK now."
Ghaffar's Middlesex team-mate Rajiv Ouseph has lost in the last two semi-finals to Kidd but the 20-year-old London 2012 prospect is in the opposite half of the draw this weekend and is expected to reach the final as the reigning European junior champion is top seed.
The one seed to fall in the men's singles was Nottinghamshire seventh seed Neil White, who went in the second round 21-16 21-13 against Mark Sellwood of Warwickshire. At the start of the day Sellwood, ranked 40 in England, wasn't event in the main draw but he came in as a replacement for Tim Cope (Lancs).
The one big surprise in the women's singles was the defeat of third seed and Grand Final runner-up Rachel Howard (Herts), who was beaten 7-21, 21-17, 21-19 by Caroline Westley of Essex.
World and Commonwealth champions Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Gail Emms (Herts) got their mixed doubles title defence off to a solid start. They had a first round bye then put out Youth Olympics bronze medallists Chris Adock (Notts) and Gabby White (Yorks) 21-19 21-16.
Emms is chasing her seventh mixed title and her fifth with Robertson and is also top seed and defending champion in the women's doubles with Donna Kellogg. They are the European champions.
The shock of the day came in the mixed where Dutch Open winners Robert Blair (Lecis) and Jenny Wallwork (Yorks) lost to Chris Tonks (Warks) and Natalie Munt (Herts) in the second round.
Tonks and Munt won 21-13 15-21 21-18 and the win was particularly sweet for Munt as Blair swapped her for Wallwork in a partnership switch after the World Championships in September.
There was a whiff of nostalgia when six-times men's doubles champion Simon Archer and Chris Hunt teamed up for one last hurrah. Hunt, 38, with partner Liza and new baby daughter watching, and Archer, 33, beat Hampshire's Andrew Penn and Rowan Taylor 21-18 21-15.
Archer pointed out before their first match that they had never lost in the Nationals together but it was much tougher against young guns Chris Tonks and Dean George, the fourth seeds in the second round.
But Archer and Hunt rolled back the years with a display of grit and determination. Roared on by an appreciative fan club they were determined to go down fighting ... but in fact they did the opposite and ran out winners 21-11 21-19.
Tonks was so frustrated he got a red after the match for smashing his racket head.
As for Archer and Hunt they now face Matthew Hanson and Harry Wright in the quarters tomorrow afternoon.
It is the fourth year the English Nationals have been held in Manchester thanks to a partnership between Badminton England, Manchester City Council, Carlton, Hi-Tec and www.sportsdiscount.com with support from the Manchester Evening News.
For full results check out the Official Website for the Championships