Lauren Smith tasted sweet victory with Chloe Birch and then crushing defeat alongside Marcus Ellis on opening day at the YONEX All England Open. 

Smith and Birch got the tournament off to a perfect start for the hosts with a 21-9 21-18 first-round win over American pairing of Srivedya Gurazada and Ishika Jaiswal.

Later on in the final game of the day on Court 1, Smith and Ellis went down to a narrow 21-16 21-17 defeat to Japan’s Kyohei Yamashita and Naru Shinoya.

Yamashita and Shinoya leapt out of the blocks into a 7-1 lead, forcing the home favourites into a passive pattern. 

That brought out Ellis and Smith’s battling qualities and their tactic of keeping Shinoya in the back court paid off as they pulled back to within a point at 13-12. 

Yamashita proved tough to contain however and his stability, allied with well-chosen attacking net play, helped the Japanese pair wrap up the first game in 20 minutes.

The momentum was with Ellis and Smith at the start of the second and, making clever use of the flick serve, they forced Yamashita into four errors early on.

But the English pair, now ranked 57 in the world, lost their radar and their opponents claimed eight successive points either side of the break to grab control of the contest that they wrapped up in 45 minutes.

Ellis underwent hip surgery last August and couldn’t see a road back to such stages as this, a painstaking process that puts the outcome into sharp context.

An emotional Ellis said: “I’m sure I’ll be proud to make it back to play at any kind of level but it’s hard because I didn’t play how I wanted to play.

“It’s amazing that I’ve managed to get back in time. My only goal was not to be hard on myself, but I feel completely disappointed in my performance.

“Having friends and family here is really special and for Lauren and I to share these moments together.”

Smith added: “We showed in that game that we could compete. We were doing the right stuff and were better than them in parts of the game. But their consistency was better than ours and there were a lot of errors.

“This is our first major competition together and we knew we’d have to learn as we go. We’re disappointed but we’re going to reflect, learn and hopefully build. We want to grow from this.

“I’m incredibly proud of Marcus. He’s worked through a lot of pain and a lot of difficulty to get back, the fact that he was even here is a success. It’s really nice to be back on court with him.”

In the second game of the tournament on Court 1, Birch and Smith bossed the early exchanges of their maiden meeting with the USA pairing.

Their power proved too much for the world No.39 duo as they leapt into an 8-3 lead and then 11-4 at the break. 

They stayed on top to take the first 21-9 but Jaiswal and Gurazada came out swinging in the second, finding a tactical approach that troubled the home favourites. 

A series of close exchanges took them to 18-18, when Birch and Smith changed things up and won the final three points to wrap up victory in 35 minutes. 

Birch reflected: “We started really strong. We lost a bit of concentration in the second set but we stamped our authority towards the end and finished it strong. 

“You never want to go to three games if you don’t have to and with Lauren playing later in the mixed doubles, it’s good we got on and off in two.”

Smith added: “(To close it out in two games) shows good character – that’s something Chloe and I pride ourselves on, being pretty tough. 

“We managed to turn it around, it would have been easy to let them run away with it as they were building in confidence and we weren’t executing in the way we wanted to. 

“We were very clear on the plan, we were assessing what was going on and changed what we were doing towards the end. There was really good maturity from us as a pair to do that.” 

It was a rousing return to the All England stage for the pair, who didn’t play the event last year with Smith eschewing the discipline and Birch playing with Jess Pugh.

“This one’s really special,” said Smith. “We all say it but we mean it – it’s our favourite event of the year, having our home crowd.

“You look at that second game there, a lot of it was the crowd getting behind us when we needed them.” 

Birch and Smith face a tough second-round assignment in the shape of Japan’s Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, who dumped out Malaysian fifth seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan in one of the biggest shocks of opening day.

The pairings haven’t met since the French Open in 2019.

“We’ve got a lot of good memories in Birmingham so we’re hopeful we can make some more this year,” said Smith.

Tickets for the 2023 YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships are on sale now. Click here to find out more.

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