Toby Penty and Kirsty Gilmour each got their singles campaigns off to winning starts on a busy day of action for Team GB’s badminton stars in Tokyo.
Penty, making his Olympic debut, beat Germany’s Kai Schaefer 21-18 21-11 in his first Group K game while Gilmour needed just 31 minutes to overcome Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad 21-14 21-14.
The first game was nip-and-tuck for 28-year-old Penty but he grew into the contest and went on to dominate the second, reeling off a run of ten straight points to seal his success.
He will now take on Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen, seeded 14th, on Wednesday (12pm BST) in a clash which will decide who makes the knockout stages.
“It was a good one,” said Penty of his opening match.
“At the end of the first set we were playing the score a bit more than the rallies, but I did well in general.
“Our play settled, so there weren’t too many nerves and I just enjoyed the experience.
“I’m just excited. I’ve had a few injuries and a few issues so I haven’t played much badminton.
“Taking on one of the seeded players tomorrow, I’m excited to see what level I can bring and how much I can challenge him.”
The Walton-on-Thames star is relishing every moment of his big stage bow and is now determined to extend his stay beyond the group stage.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “I feel like I’ve embraced everything and I’m really enjoying being around the rest of the Team GB guys.
“I love that feel of being around elite athletes on a constant basis from other sports as well, so combined with enjoying playing out there, it’s a great experience.”
Gilmour made a similarly impressive start as she proved too good for Shahzad at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.
The Scot trailed briefly in the first set but never gave up her lead once she had established it and ended up taking both games comfortably.
“Mahoor is a really good player, really good at retrieving things, so I was expecting that,” she said.
“At times, I got into a really good flow but I will have to string a lot more than just patches together tomorrow.
“I don’t like to set myself hard and fast targets. If I can string point after point of quality together, that will put me in the best position.”
Gilmour, who exited in the group stage in Rio, faces a crunch clash with fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi tomorrow (1am BST) for a place in the knockout rounds.
“I feel a big dynamic change from Rio,” she said. “I’m five years older and slightly wiser!
“I have a better ability to organise myself, ask questions of the support staff around me and tap into their knowledge.”
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. We’ve had some really good battles in the past and that’s what I’m here for. I feel quite confident.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith were beaten 21-19 21-16 by Lee Meng Yean and Chow Mei Kuan to bring their women’s doubles campaign to an end.
It was a third consecutive defeat for the British pair, who led once in the second game against their Malaysian opponents before being overhauled, but Birch believes she has learned valuable lessons from her first Olympic experience.
“It was a tough one for us today,” said the Sheffield ace.
“They were very good opponents. They’ve beaten some of the top players in the world so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“No one’s going to give you anything at the Olympic Games and we fought in every single match, that’s the most important thing for us.
“It’s massive being at an Olympic Games. It was a really hard fight to get here and I think we’ve embraced every minute.
“Lauren still has the mixed to go so we’ll be cheering! It’s just soaking up the experience, enjoying being here and supporting the other guys that are still in the tournament.”
As Birch alluded to, Smith’s Tokyo journey is far from over. She will be in mixed doubles quarter-final action alongside Marcus Ellis on Wednesday, with the so far unbeaten pair up against Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet from 3.40am (BST).
Reflecting on today’s defeat alongside Birch, Smith said: “We had a lot of good runs of executing tactics we wanted to and we fought really hard.
“But we also had too many patches of easy mistakes, giving them cheap points.
“We know if we could’ve been a bit more consistent, we would have got more easy errors from them eventually, but unfortunately we just couldn’t keep that level where we needed to be.
“The hardest thing for us was getting here. It was a really long process – 12 months turned into 24. Just getting here was a huge achievement and we should hold our heads high.”
Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, meanwhile, put in an improved performance but weren’t able to record their maiden Olympic victory as they went down 21-17 21-19 against Indian duo Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
The British pair were in a particularly tough group, with all three of their opposing pairs ranked in the world’s top nine, which has given them an appreciation of the levels they have set their sights on reaching.
“We haven’t really found our game for the whole time here so it was just a case of trying to find that a bit,” Lane said.
“We definitely found it in that match a bit more than the first two. The level of the first two pairs we played was extremely high for a reason. We definitely still have some improvement to do.”
Vendy added: “It doesn’t feel like there are positives at the moment but we went out there today and played really well.
“We didn’t win but we found our game. It’s just a shame we didn’t do it for the whole tournament.”