Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith got England off to a brilliant start at the YONEX All England Open with an first round victory at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham.
Ellis and Smith are sixth seeds this year and began their campaign with a hard-fought 21-17, 21-19 over Rinov Rivaldy and Pitha Haningtyas Mentari in the final Court 1 match of the day.
“I think overall we’re very happy. We played them last week and we had a very, very tough three-set battle with them and we won 21-19 in the third,” said Ellis.
“Today I think the game was close pretty much the whole way, but we’re happy to win in two and save a bit of energy for tomorrow’s match.”
Smith added: “I think in the second set especially they really pushed back and changed the game up a little bit. It was important for us to remember we were still ahead and we had that control.
“We just needed to get the game plan right, get the tactics right to how we were doing them and believe they were going to work. We had to scrap a few points here and there but we pride ourselves on that.”
Earlier in the day Chloe Birch and Jessica Pugh got their new partnership off to a flying start.
Birch and Pugh were playing their second tournament together in 2022 and faced a tough test against Danish duo Christine Busch and Amalie Schulz on Court 1.
And despite being a game and 16-12 down, Birch and Pugh rallied to seal a fantastic 11-21, 21-18, 21-14 victory in front of an adoring home crowd.
“We knew they were tough opponents. Obviously we are a new partnership so we’re still trying to find our feet a little bit, and just get used to these conditions, said Birch.
“They obviously started off strong, I think we started a little bit slow. I think we showed a lot of fight in that second set to come back. Credit to us for sticking in there.
“The crowd were amazing. It helps being on home soil and they wanted us to win every point so badly that we just stuck in there. We were very lucky to stay in there and take that second and go into the third.”
Pugh added: “ It’s amazing. It’s the only one we have in England on the circuit, but to have one of the most prestigious on the tour on our doorstep is unbelievable.
“Even the number of people today who have turned up on the first day for the first round, it really got behind us, it really helped us. It’s amazing.”
Sean Vendy and Ben Lane also started very strongly, defeating Tan Kian Meng and Tan Wee Kiong 21-14, 22-20.
A win against the Malaysian pairing is a first-ever win at the YONEX All England for Vendy and Lane, something that made the opening round triumph extra special.
“I feel like it’s always been a long time coming. We’ve been playing together for so long and we’ve never done that well at this tournament, so hopefully this can be our year,” said Vendy.
“We got our tactics right and it was just about trying to stick to it as much as possible. We went off it a little bit, they pushed us back a bit, which they were always going to, but I feel like when we regrouped and got back on it, it was pretty good.”
Lane added: “The last two years have been a rollercoaster, with tournaments cancelled and everything, but we’re just so happy the crowds are back, especially in England when they’re cheering us on.”
Also in the men’s doubles there was an encouraging display from Callum Hemming and Steven Stallwood.
Hemming and Stallwood fell to a 21-14, 21-12 defeat to eighth seeds Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, though took plenty of positives from their display.
Hemming said: “We played them in France a few months ago and I thought it was a bit of an improvement, playing from that game, which was a good, positive take from it.”
“We’re really new to these sorts of tournaments. As far as targets go I think it’s just self-development, self-improvement. We’ve got a lot to look back on and improve on,” added Stallwood.
Hemming and Pugh were on court together later in the afternoon, in mixed doubles action against Yew Sin and Goh Liu Ying.
Despite a strong start the duo’s campaign ended with a 17-21, 21-17, 21-11 defeat to the Malaysian pair.
The YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships return to Utilita Arena Birmingham with the best players from around the world from 16th – 20th March 2022.
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