Monday, May 20, 2019
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO
England delivered a stunning blow to the egos and aspirations of European powerhouse, Denmark, tonight in a battle royal at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019.
Sensing the vulnerability of the perennial continental champions, the underdogs dug deep in all three doubles fixtures to clamber to a memorable 3-2 triumph in their Group 1B tie in Nanning, China.
It’s an outcome that leaves the Danes with “our backs to the wall” – according to head coach Kenneth Jonassen – as they contemplate a do-or-die clash with a strong Indonesian machinery that has already steamrolled England by a 4-1 margin. An Indonesian victory will catapult England into the quarterfinals of the World Mixed Team Championships.
Tonight’s epic marathon unfolded over nearly seven hours of energy-sapping action, with Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith leading the charge versus their esteemed rivals. The mixed-doubles tandem wrestled the opening salvo for England and, having watched Denmark rebound to snatch two close singles points, returned to bring home the goods.
Ellis and Chris Langridge battled for an hour and 38 minutes to down Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in men’s doubles (16-21 21-19 21-19) before Smith and Chloe Birch – keen to amend for her women’s singles loss – produced an inspired performance to thwart Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen. Their women’s doubles triumph (21-12 19-21 21-11) was achieved in 72 minutes shortly before 1 a.m.
“We are absolutely elated. We knew Denmark were weak against us and we had an opportunity to beat them for the first time in quite a while. They are our big European rival and it feels incredible to step on court and win the deciding match,” declared Smith.
“The pressure was definitely on them and we could play more freely.”
A beaming Birch was equally pleased, noting: “We were really strong. We dug in and we fought.”
Ellis, who was felled by cramps as he and Langridge celebrated levelling the tie 2-2, recovered in time to see the final unforgettable rites.
“We have played them a lot and, as long as I have been playing, we have never beaten them. It’s a really big day for us and we should be proud!”
Quote of the Session
“We played an extremely close tie. I don’t feel we performed to the best of our ability. They defended really well and came back from many first-game defeats to challenge us and we were not up to the challenge in the second and third games. Overall, it was a tremendous team match and we didn’t capitalise enough when we won the first game.
“The English did well to come back and give momentum to the rest of their players that this could be their day. We lost to a better team – end of story,” said Danish head coach Kenneth Jonassen.
Jonassen on Chances of Beating Indonesia
“It’s good people can’t see my facial expression. It’s going to be extremely tough; an uphill battle.
“Someway, somehow, we have to come up with a solution that we believe we can find three matches against Indonesia and pick ourselves up from this defeat.
“This time we are the underdogs and maybe that can give us the energy we lacked today.”