Successful experiment for Smith & Birch
As athletes both Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith (main picture) traveled to Belgium this week with winning on their minds. Realistically however as a new pair expectations might not have been that high given team England’s experimentation with new partnerships post the Rio Olympics.
After a tight win in their second round against Nielsen and Madsen of Denmark the English girls looked to have found their rhythm and with each passing round progressed and got better. In today’s final the English came up against another Danish pair Rikke Soby Hansen and Julie-Finne Ipsen, the Danes having beaten another fancied English pair in round two, Sophie Brown and Sarah Walker.
Both pairs exchanged the opening sets before Smith and Birch stretched into a 9-5 lead in the deciding set, a lead they were never to relinquish. At 15-10 the Danes did rally to close the deficit to one at 19-18 but while not familiar as a pair the English experience took them through to the title with a 21-18 win.
“It is a bit of an experiment over the coming tournaments as we try out a few new pairings with the Commonwealth Games as a goal for the English squad.” Said Smith after the win
“There were points this week where we were letting ourselves down tactically and today we did the same. That comes from being a new pair but obviously to still win here in Belgium in a big result for us and something we are very happy about” commented Birch.
As Birch and Smith were successful winners as a new pairing so to were French mixed doubles pair Ronan Labar and Audrey Fontaine. The French tried their best to lose the opening set trailing 9-1 to Danes Ditte Soby Hansen and Alexander Bond before storing back to take the set 21-19. That Danish loss destroyed the Danes and Labar and Fontaine cruised home 21-14 in the second game to lift their first title in just their second tournament as a pair.
“We were very tense at the start but soon started to find our game and I knew once we won that opening game we could then go on to lift the title” said Fontaine.
Corvee comes good
There was doubles joy for team France in today’s finals as Lucas Corvee (pictured above) finally put his series of circuit runners up spots behind him to claim his first big circuit title and the Frenchman did it in some style. Corvee’s opponent today was Sourabh Varma of India who looked the class act in Leuven this week.
The Indian got off to a great start leading 11-4 and 17-11 but a new found Corvee coolness stood to the Frenchman as he came back to take the opening game 21-19.
The second set was much tighter with both men trading blows but when Corvee took a 19-15 lead there was no way back for the classy Indian.
The Frenchman took the set and the match to finally get the victory he so richly deserves as all the men’s singles in France start to show their true potential under head coach Peter Gade.
“This was my best match of the week by far. Coming back from so far behind in the first set was crucial. That gave me belief and I am just so happy to get this win after so many mist opportunities in the past on the circuit”
Asia and Europe shared the singles titles as Soniia Su Ya Cheah of Malaysia won the women’s singles in an entertaining battle against new European kid on the block Sofie Holmboe Dahl of Denmark.
In the final match of the day there was no magical first tournament win for Rasmus Fladberg and Frederick Colberg as the Danes were completely outplayed by the entertaining duo of Lu and Yang of Chinese Taipei who cruised to the men’s doubles title.
For all the results from the finals of 2016 Yonex Belgian International click HERE
To watch all the matches from finals day on demand click HERE
Article and Images by Mark Phelan (Live in Leuven)