As opening matches go, Chloe Birch and Jessica Pugh could not have asked for much more when they stepped onto Court 1 at the YONEX All England 2022 on Wednesday.
Birch, 26, and Pugh, 24, have only just formed their partnership – but that didn’t show in a thrilling opening round victory against Denmark’s Christine Busch & Amalie Schulz.
The Danish duo, favourites pre-match, won the first game and were 16-12 up in the second as a spot in the next round looked to be getting away from the English pairing.
However a scintillating run of points turned the contest in Birch and Pugh’s favour, and they prevailed 11-21, 21-18, 21-14 much to the delight of a home crowd at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham
“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, after a first win for the duo in 2022.
“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.
Pugh added: “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.”
Birch previously played with Lauren Smith and the duo reached 12th in the world rankings, with the Cumbrian now deciding to focus on her mixed doubles partnership with Marcus Ellis.
Pugh’s most notable results have come in mixed doubles alongside Ben Lane and most recently Callum Hemming, winning two titles and reaching a further two international finals with Hemming.
After a landmark first win together things don’t get any easier for the newly formed duo, who face Zhang Shuxian and Zheng Yu for a place in the last eight tomorrow – on what will be Pugh’s 25th birthday.
Birch said: “We’ve not had much gameplay. We’ve not played in tournaments for the last two months while we’ve been playing together so it’s just been training.
“It’s sometimes quite hard to know where you’re at and especially with the new partnership. We don’t have many women’s doubles pairs in England to play against so just getting the competition is great.
“It’s our first win so we’ll definitely take confidence from that and we’ve got an opportunity tomorrow to see what we can do against a really good pair as well.
“We’re learning from every single game and I’m really proud that we stuck in there today and fought it out because it would have been quite easy to roll over and not stick in that game.”
Win or lose tomorrow, a big year awaits the two as they look to grow and develop their partnership.
They have already been awarded a wildcard into next month’s European Championships in Madrid, while action heads to Birmingham again this summer with the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Though action for that will move from the Utilita Arena to the NEC, the prospect of a major home championships is something both are target and hold great ambitions for.
“That’s one of our targets for sure, definitely trying to get a medal at the Commonwealth Games here in Birmingham,” said Pugh.
“They always put on a good show here and to have our home crowd behind us, we’re definitely looking to medal there. That should be a good event for us.”
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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