After quickly settling in, the players hit the practice courts. Two practices on the first day to try get over the jet lag and sluggish legs from more than 24 hours of flying.
Thursday 9th December 2010
The first on court was Willem Viljoen who faced the unknown opposition from Ireland, Owen Marron, whom he successfully beat 21-14, 21-15. The second round of qualification was against another local player who Willem again easily dismissed beating Richard Sims 21-7, 21-8.
Willem's final singles qualification match was against Flemming Quach a Danish player currently training with Morten Frost. Willem put up a brave fight against this experienced player, but lost out in two sets 21-15, 21-5.
Flemming was 1 of 8 players who qualified for the main singles draw.
The average world ranking of the players in the qualification draw ranged from 145 to 180.
Friday 10th December 2010
Friday saw the start of play of the main draws of the Irish International. Rounds 1 and 2 were played in all five disciplines, and there was delight and despair for the players and spectators.
Most of the other top seeds made it through the mens singles first and second round and there are some intriguing match ups to look forward to tomorrow.
Dorian and Willem took the courts 1st in their men's doubles clash with 4th seeded Durkinjak and Hoelbling (Croatia).
Having lost the first set Dorian and Willem produced some better form to forge a lead and then ultimately win the second set.
The South Africans then proved too strong for the Croatians winning -21-13, 22-20.
Their 2nd match was against the new English pairing of Anthony Clark ( former world doubles champion) and Chris Langridge. Although unseeded this pair showed a completely different level of class in their play compared to many others players at the tournament.
Clark displayed why he was frequently in the top ten in the world for mens doubles with his impressive smashes and cross court slices that sometimes left the South Africans completely wrong footed.
The quick racket speeds of the English, combined with their deception, solid defense and general excellent play proved too much for Dorian and Willem who eventually down 7-21, 13-21.
Elsewhere in the mens doubles draw, in the second round, number 1 seeds, French pair Laurent Constantin and Sébastien Vincent were knocked out by Danish partnership Mats Bue Anders Skaarup Rasmussen who in the first round had dispatched Irish pair Daniel Magee and Niall Tierney.
In the bottom half of the mens doubles draw top Irish pairing of Sam Magee and Tony Stephenson comfortably eased past Welsh duo Daniel Font and Oliver Gwilt. This set up an intriguing encounter against the number 2 seeds, French pairing Baptiste Careme and Sylvain Grosjean. Magee and Grosjean had previously played together at Junior level and won a doubles gold medal together at the European Junior Championships in 2009! On opposite sides of the net this time, both players, together with their partners played some superb badminton throughout a tough three set match. Despite a fantastic performance from the Irish pair, urged on by their home crowd, they lost out in the end.
Next up was Michelle and Dorian in the mixed doubles. They took on the Swiss pairing of Anthony Dumartheray and Sabrina Jacquet. It is not the 1st time that these pairings have met. Previously at the Sudirman Cup in China Dorian and Michelle had beaten the Swiss in a closely contested 3 setter.
This match however was to be very different. Michelle and Dorian played shot after shot that forced the Swiss to up their game. Unfortunately the South African pair couldn't produce the form that recently took them to the final of the South African International as well as the Botswana Open. The Swiss forged ahead towards the end of the second set and held on to take the match. The mixed challenge had come to a disappointing end.
The final result was 11-21,13-21.
In the mixed doubles top seeds, Canadians, Toby NG and Grace Gao lost to fancied British paring of Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier. The other seeds made it through including the number three seeds...
Home favourites Sam Magee and Chloe Magee.
Michelle and Annari on the other hand had a bye in the 1st round which wasn't exactly what the coach ordered. This trip was to gain experience, the more games the better.
In the 2nd round they met the number 1 seeds from England, Agathangelou and Olver, both experienced players on the doubles and mixed courts.
Ready for the challenge, the girls took to the courts prepared to give it their all. After just over 25 minutes ( relatively short space of time at this level of badminton) the girls went down losing 17-21, 17-21.
The ladies doubles went largely according to form, with only the Belgian number 3 seeds losing out. Defending Champions and number one seeds, English partnership, Mariana Agathangeloua and Heather Olver eased into the last 8, as did the Danish number two seeds and losing finalists from last year Maria Helsbol and Anne Skelbaek. A repeat of last years final is still on the cards.
Saturday 11th December 2010
First on court at the Yonex Irish International Badminton Championships on quarter and semi finals day, were Sam and Chloe Magee. They faced very tough opposition in English paring Heather Olver and Robin Middleton. This was destined to be a great match.
The Magees as underdogs were being boosted by the home crowd and were matching the English pair point for point. Sam and Chloe seemed to recapture, if not better, the form they produced to win the Spanish Open title earlier this year. Despite such efforts they still lost the first set 23-25. However they managed to turn the match around with some quite oustanding play. The overcame their rivals 21-15, 21-15 in the second and third sets to book their place in the semi final. This result was right up there with their best results from the past, and on home soil it was all the sweeter.
Soon after the mixed success, Chloe was back on court in the ladies singles to face number 1 seed, and title favourite Elizabeth Cann, from England. Magee, perhaps bouyed by her mixed result, produced a great performance in front of a vocal crowd to beat the English number 1, 21-13, 21-17. This was another fantastic result for Magee who would play two semi finals later in the day.
In the mixed semi final the Magees faced experienced Danish pair Christian Skovgaard and Britta Andersen. Having played a tough three set match in round 2, and another in the quarter final, in the semi final both Sam and Chloe struggled to match the pace of their Danish opponents. Despite defending well, they struggled to gain the attack and couldn't match the power from Skovgaard to force a breakthrough. Sam and Chloe put up a brave fight but lost out in two sets.
Skovgaard and Andersen will play British due Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier in the first match of the finals.
Following her mixed doubles disappointment, Chloe had to quickly prepare herself for a tough singles encounter with 6th seed, Dane, Karina Jorgensen in the semi final. Jorgensen had only been playing singles throughout the Championship, and was much the fresher throughout the semi final encounter. Chloe dug deep on several occasions in an effort to stay in the match but it was obvious she couldn't get to the level required to reach the final and lost out in two sets.
Jorgensen progressed to the final where she will play number two seed, Scot Susan Egelstaff, who overcame last years winner Carolina Marin (Spain) in her semi final.
In the mens singles number one seed Hans- Kristian Vittinghus progressed to the final although he had to work hard to get past Frenchman Matthieu Lo Ying Ping in the semi final. He'll meet Spaniard Pablo Abian who also had a tough semi final against Fin, Ville Lang.
In the mens doubles the English partnerships of Chris Adcock and Andrew Ellis, and Anthony Clarke and Chris Langridge will face each other in the final. It's great for the Irish crowd to see a player of Anthony Clarke's pedegree live in action. He's represented England at World Championship and Olympic level. With new partner Chris Langridge, they are probably favourites to take the title.
As widely expected, the ladies doubles final will be a repeat of last years final between number 1 seeds Mariana Agathangelou and Heather Olver, and number 2 seeds Maria Helsbol and Anne Skelbaek. Both overcame emerging French partnerships in their semi finals. The English pair Agathangelou and Olver won the title last year.
Sunday 12th December 2010
The 2010 Yonex Irish International Badminton Championships came to a close on Sunday the 12th of December with finals in each of the five disciplines.
All five matches were of the highest quality, with two matches going to three sets. Undoubtedly, the highlight was the mens singles final between Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Pablo Abian. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus was the number one seed and was in good form having recently won the Norwegian International for the third time. Pablo Abian seeded eighth was also in good form having just last week won the Welsh International in Cardiff, his third title this year.
At the end of a three set thriller, although Abian had had two match points, Vittinghus took the title by 23 points to 21. That made it seven wins in seven finals for Vittinghus.
Before the mens singles final though was the mixed doubles final, between British pair, Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier and Danes Christian John Skovgaard and Britta Andersen. The British partnership had won the Scottish International three weeks ago and were favourites to take the Irish title.
The favourites tag was fully justified. The Danes couldn’t match Adcock and Bankier for pace and precision and lost in straight sets. Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier - Mixed Doubles Champions for 2010.
Next on court was the ladies singles final. Karina Jorgensen from Denmark, the sixth seed, who put out Chloe Magee in the semi final, faced second seed Susan Egelstaff from Scotland. Egelstaff had put out last years winner Carolina Marin in the semi final. This was a tough match to call.
The first set was very close throughout, both players testing the other to the limit. Egelstaff won out in the end 23-21. With the first set secure Egelstaff forged ahead in the second and never gave Jorgensen the opportunity to get back into the game. Susan Egelstaff - Ladies Singles Champion for 2010.
The mens singles final was between Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Pablo Abian. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus was the number one seed and was in good form having recently won the Norwegian International for the third time. Pablo Abian seeded eighth was also in good form having just last week won the Welsh International in Cardiff, his third title this year.
What a match this proved to be. Vittinghus won the first set, Abian the second, to set up a climactic final set. Abian forged ahead in the early stages, establishing a five point gap mid way through the set. However the number one seed fought back to tie the game at 18-18. The next few points could make such a difference to each player’s career, the prize money, the ranking points, and the title, were all at stake. It showed on court as each player played each point to the death.
Abian served for the match at 20-19 but failed to convert the opportunity. He served for the match again at 21-20 and on this occasion had a relatively easy smash to take the title... but he put it just wide and Vittinghus was spared. Vittinghus went on to win the next two points with some tremendous play, to secure the game, match and title.
After the match Vittinighus said “I couldn’t believe he missed that smash at match point, I’m just lucky he did. I’ve never lost a final on the European tour, that was my seventh win out of seven, but I came very close to losing that one. It was lucky number seven for me!” Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, Irish International mens singles champion, 2010.
The ladies doubles final was a repeat of last years final between number one seeds Mariana Agathangelou and Heather Olver from England and number two seeds Maria Helsbol and Anne Skelbaek from Denmark.
The number one seeds and defending champions were favourites having recently helped the English team to a bronze medal at the Commonwealth games. This final proved to be another three set thriller. The Danes lost the first set easily, but managed to turn things around in the second set to take the match to a decider. In the third set they played some outstanding badminton to avenge last years defeat and take this years title. 2010 ladies doubles champions, Maria Helsbol and Anne Skelbaek.
Last on court was an all England mens doubles final between Chris Adcock and Andrew Ellis and Anthony Clark and Chris Langridge. Ellis won this title in 2008, and with Adcock, recently finished runner up at the Scottish International. Anthony Clark will be familiar to many having represented England at Olympic and World Championships, and had great success in mixed doubles with Donna Kellogg.
Adcock and Ellis have built a great partnership and understanding, and throughout the game this seemed to give them the advantage over the experienced Clarke, and his partner Chris Langridge. With great technical and tactical play, as well as some exceptional power, Adcock and Ellis took the first set.
They forged ahead in the second set too, before Clarke seemed to up his game to the next level. However Adcock and Ellis had built a sufficient lead to hold off their opponents challenge and take the second set and title. Anthony Clark and Chris Langridge, mens doubles champions 2010.
It was quite evident from this trip that in order for South Africans to compete on the European circuit players need to be in peak physical shape. Being able to run a level 13 on the bleep test is just not good enough.
It was evident that control on the court doesn't mean, not hitting out, it means keeping your composure in tough situations, (bad line calls, unforced errors) controlling the shuttle after moving at pace to retrieve it.
You must have a plan when you select which shot you are going to play, merely hitting badminton doe not cut it at this level.
This was our 1st stop off in Europe, next stop Italian Open, Rome. Hopefully the experience gained, albeit in a very short space of time, will be evident in the results from Rome.