ALL ENGLAND R16 – Mixed surprises
Locals Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith gave fans in Birmingham a reason to shout as they knocked out former All England champions Arisa Higashino and Yuta Watanabe in straight games, while a few matches earlier it was the Dutch pair Piek and Tabeling who sent the world #1s packing.
By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Birmingham. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
While it is difficult for everyone to focus in these particular times, hundred of fans still came to witness the second round of this most prestigious event. Lucky them, locals Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith gave them a reason to shout as they knocked out former All England champions and last year’s finalists Arisa Higashino and Yuta Watanabe in straight games.
But the biggest upset came a few matches earlier. European mixed doubles started its incredible show when Selena Piek and Robin Tabeling (pictured right) of the Netherlands bested none other than the titleholders Huang Yaqiong and Zheng Siwei.
The Dutch pair displayed an incredible attacking game and proved to be full of confidence when entering the court, a great recipe to beat the main contenders for the gold in Tokyo this year.
“Your game needs to be perfect to beat a pair like them. I think today was our day. We played really well. It is a dream come true for me!” said a delighted Selena Piek after her match. Paving their way towards the quarter-final, the top Dutch pair is now set to meet Korea’s main representatives in mixed doubles, Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yoo Jung.
A few matches after, it was England’s Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith (pictured left) to wow the crowd, with a splendid performance against Arisa Higashino and Yuta Wutanabe, winners in 2018 and last year’s runners-up in Birmingham. The pair took only two games to outplay the Japanese pair.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for us. We have never played them before so we didn’t really know what to expect but we have watched a lot of their matches and it worked pretty well for us today,” commented Ellis.
“On paper, technically they should be winning but at no point did we let that part overwhelm us. We remained very strong, very focused and I think that resiliency proved to work really well for us,” added Lauren Smith.
The English pair, however, remained very calm and knew they still had a way to go if they wished to reach the final in Birmingham: “We know we’ve only reached half of the road. Now we’ll be going out of the stadium to keep focussing and we’ll come back tomorrow ready to fight.”
Malaysia‘s single chances
Malaysia’s new men’s singles celebrity Lee Zii Jia (pictured) impressed during his first All England appearance. After defeating Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie, the 21-year-old overpowered China’s Lu Guangzu is straight games 21-10, 21-16.
“First, I am of course very excited for my first All England, so far entering the quarter–final is a big joy for me, now I need to prepare well for it.”
Lee, who came last year as a reserve player did not get the chance to play, instead saw his team-mates Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik reach the final is their first appearance here.
“When I watched my team-mates last year reaching the final, I was obviously very happy for them but I also got jealous in a way, so now I can only hope to achieve the same result as them.”
He will now get a bigger hurdle in the quarters as he is set to meet reigning Olympic champion Chen Long, who swept away his legendary team-mate Lin Dan.
Click here for complete Thursday results