The Australian badminton team failed to register a win on the opening day of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, except for an impressive effort by women’s doubles pair Jacqueline Guan and Gronya Somerville against Great Britain. This, the final match of the day, was the only one in which one of the seeded teams (Malaysia, China, Great Britain, Chinese Taipei) conceded a game.
In the opening match, Australians Matthew Chau and Gronya Somerville faced Tom Wolfenden and Holly Smith from Great Britain. The British tore away to an insurmountable lead in the first game, scoring six of the first seven points. Chau and Somerville's frustration and determination was palpable as their serving and returning often let them down. Consequently, Great Britain won the first game comfortably. The second game saw an improvement on the Australians’ part, with the teams going almost point for point. At one stage the Australians even held game point at 22-21. Britain, however, claimed the next three points in a match that the Australian team considers the one that got away.
The men’s singles competition was a short-lived one, with high quality Englishman Alex Lane disposing of Australian Sawan Serasinghe in straight games: 21-9 and 21-14. Though, after an animated talk with the coach in the game break, Serasinghe came out strongly, but he was not able to maintain that high standard of play for the remainder of the match.
There was similar disappointment in the women’s singles match, in which Australian Verdet Kessler lost in two games to Chloe Birch (GBR). Birch remained composed during rallies while Kessler desperately, though admirably, lunged and dived for unlikely and ultimately futile returns.
Despite an auspicious start for the double’s team of Chau and Serasinghe, the contest against Wolfenden and Aaron Cheng resulted in further loss for Australia. The Aussies managed to follow Team GB to an 18-all score line in the first game, which was promptly altered by Wolfenden and Aaron Cheng in their favour, once again denying Australia a game. The British team claimed the victory with less resistance in the second game.
Great Britain’s only threat to outright badminton superiority came in the women’s doubles event, the first game won by Somerville and Guan, 21-16. The second game saw high intensity play from both the Australians, and Birch and Smith. The drama rose to a higher level when Guan objected to a dubious call from the linesman. This, however, did not hinder their play. With resolve, Somerville and Guan won the second game (21-15) and subsequently the match.
The Chinese team proved their dominance immediately. Song Xue scored nine times before his opponent from Oceania, Remi Rossi, could notch up a point.
A similar brand of superiority was on display from the Chinese Taipei team, as they routed the New Zealanders, who provided mild resistance—they held several competitive rallies and games, but were never able to pose a genuine threat. It was the same case with the other Australian team, which was convincingly beaten by the first-seeded Malaysian team.
Such was the nature of the day’s play, characterised by dominance by the seeded teams; the sole upset achieved by Guan and Somerville.
"It was a bit disappointing to lose 4-1, especially in the mixed doubles, but it was great that we managed a win. We didn’t go into this particular match with a lot of expectations, so it was a good surprise," said Australian Olympian and media liaison Glenn Warfe.
Dalton Woods - Olympics.com.au