The waiting is over – Olympic badminton has begun.
Three of Team GB’s doubles pairings got their campaigns underway in Tokyo on Saturday, with Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith tasting success against France’s Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue.
Just two places separate the duos in the world rankings and the clash was as tightly-contested as anticipated, with the British pair taking the first game 21-18.
Gicquel and Delrue hit back to take an 8-2 lead in the second but Ellis and Smith held their nerve and chipped away at the deficit, ultimately overhauling it to take the game 21-17 and wrap up victory in 50 minutes.
Both Ellis and Smith competed at Rio 2016, with Ellis claiming bronze alongside Chris Langridge in the men’s doubles, and the 31-year-old felt Olympic experience was key in their opening victory.
“We started the match very well,” he said. “The French pair looked quite nervous, you could see this was a big occasion for them, as it is for everybody.
“We were hoping to draw on our previous Olympic experience to know how to deal with the situation.
“We put in a good performance. Under the circumstances, we have to see that as a positive start.”
The British pair had beaten their French counterparts in all three previous meetings but Smith admitted they were taking nothing for granted going into the Group B clash.
“We’ve played them a handful of times, but not for a long time and they have been improving,” she said.
“We knew we’d have to play well but also that we had a lot more experience, especially in an Olympic environment.
“I think we tried to use that to our advantage. As much as they’re improving, we had to focus on ourselves.
“Whoever it is on the other side of the court, we want to play to our best and our tactics, our style. That was the big focus.
“We weren’t nervous in particular. Something Marcus said about the Olympics that I remember is that the hardest part was to qualify.
“When you’re here, it’s all a bonus. There’s no point wasting this opportunity and this experience, something we’ve worked towards for two years now, by being nervous.
“We just went on there and tried to put our best performance in and it paid off in the end.”
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Next up for Ellis and Smith is their first ever meeting with Canada’s Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu, the world No.27 pairing.
With third seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai looming in the final group game, Ellis and Smith will be eager to book their place in the last eight in Sunday’s clash – the only match involving a British pair on day two.
Smith was back on the court in Saturday’s evening session to kick off her women’s doubles competition alongside Chloe Birch.
Top seeds Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota were lying in wait and the Japanese pairing showed their quality to run out 21-13, 21-14 winners.
“They played a bit differently to what we’re used to,” Birch said.
“She (Hirota) is the net player anyway and normally the one to go forwards, she did it more than she usually would.
“Maybe their style changed a little bit but their quality and control of the game was still at the top level.”
Smith and Birch face another stern test on Monday against world No.6 pairing Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, who won their opener, but the 29-year-old is confident of an upturn in fortunes.
“This was always going to be a really tough match and there’s still loads to play for in the group,” Smith said.
“It’s just about figuring out what we need to do to get going again and putting some pressure on the other pairs in the group.”
Ben Lane and Sean Vendy were also up against a world No.1 pairing in their opening match and went down 15-21, 11-21 against Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
Lane and Vendy started confidently but the quality of the gold medal favourites shone through as the match progressed.
“We pushed them a little bit in the first game, which we’re happy about,” Vendy said.
“We knew it was going to be tough. I feel a little bit disappointed now, because the second game ran away from us a bit.
“They had a bit too much for us, they got too far in the lead and we couldn’t come back from that.
“When they’re on their game, it’s so hard to score points against them.”
The British pair are back in action on Monday needing to beat Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Watch live Olympic badminton action on BBC Sport and view the latest results and schedule here.
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Photos courtesy of Badminton Wire