Birch Smith Exit 1200

16 March 2023

Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith exited the YONEX All England Open on Thursday following a tough second round encounter at the Utilita Arena Birmingham.

Birch and Smith impressed in their opening round match on Tuesday but were handed a tricky challenge in the second round against Japan’s Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto.

The Japanese pairing have not won a title since their All England success two years ago, though they are two-time world champions and former world No.1s.

All their experience and pedigree shone through in the opening game in which they gave Birch and Smith little time to breath.

It was tough for the English stars to generate any rhythm in the opening stages, and Naguhara and Matsumoto barely made a mistake as they took the opening game 21-9.

And unfortunately it was a similar story in the second game for Birch and Smith, the Japanese building an imperious 15-5 lead.

Birch and Smith did not go down without a fight and regained some ground, but could not prevent their opponents claiming a 21-9 21-10 victory to reach the last eight.

“It was tough. We both feel really disappointed but they need a lot of credit for what they did,” conceded Birch afterwards.

“They’re former world champions and they showed that out there. We’re a bit disappointed with some of the stuff and we made a few too many errors but we fought to the end, tried to change things and to take it on, but it wasn’t good enough.”

Smith highlighted Matsumoto as proving particularly tricky to handle, with the Japanese star proving too astute tactically and technically in a controlled display.

She added: “Matsumoto was really dominant in the mid-court and the forecourt. She was very clever with the shots she hit to tie us up and get us out of position. Once they got the attack, it was hard to contain them in defence.

“They got all the attack and worked the attack better than we did. We didn’t get the attack enough and when we did get it, we were like, ‘ooh, we’ve finally got it’ and we were a bit over-eager.

“They’re a world-class pair and they’ve had some very good results. We were just outplayed but we tried to keep implementing different tactics. None of them worked, but maybe next time some of them will.

“We’ll learn from this game and build going into the next few tournaments.”

As they look to continue building their renewed partnership, Birch and Smith now take on a busy spell of action with the All England the first of five tournaments in as many weeks.

They will next be in action at the YONEX Swiss Open next week, where they open their tournament against Germans Linda Elfer and Isabel Lohau.

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

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