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London 2012: Day 1 - Session 1: Russians Surprise British Hopefuls

Olympic badminton could not have started better. The Wembley Arena galleries were nearly full and spectators had plenty to cheer about as this morning’s session of day one saw some exciting matches.

However, the big disappointment was the defeat of local Mixed Doubles hopefuls, Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier, to Russians Alexandr Nikolaenko (pictured right) and Valeria Sorokina.

The world No.10 pair, silver medallists at last year’s World Championships, seemed on course for a comfortable win, taking the first game 21-14, but the world No.15 Russians struck back and edged them out in a nervy three-setter. The British pair must now contend with China’s world No.1 combination Zhang Nan/ Zhao Yunlei and Germany’s Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels in Group A.

“This is the Olympics, so we were ready! Each point gave us confidence and they looked nervous. We capitalized on that,” said the excited Russians, savouring victory.

Another noticeable morning result was the 21-18 22-20 triumph of world No.20 pair, Robert Mateusiak/Nadiezda Zieba, who made light of their ranking to beat world No.11 duo Shintaro Ikaeda/Reiko Shiota.

In Group C, V Diju and Jwala Gutta might have expected to give All England champions Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir some trouble but the Indonesians were easy winners as they cantered to a 21-16 21-12 result over the Indians. Hot contenders in the women’s doubles, Qing Tian/Zhao Yunlei, likewise were dominant over Hong Kong’s Lok Yan Poon/Suet Tse Ying 21-11 21-12.

Among the early close contests was the Group D match between two top-ten pairs Miyuki Maeda/Satoko Suetsuna and Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter-Juhl (pictured left). A fascinating battle of differing styles and physical abilities unfolded, pitting the taller and more attacking instincts of Pedersen and Rytter-Juhl against the defensive style of the Japanese. Ultimately, the latter triumphed 18-21 21-14 21-17 as their famed defence wore down the attacking Danes in a lengthy duel.

“This is just one win,” noted Maeda. “We need to stay focused as nothing is certain in a group format.”

Her partner admitted they were nervous at the outset, having never conquered the Danes.

“It’s only when we led 17-15 in the third game that we thought we could win.”

Among the singles winners of the session were Bae Yeon-Ju (beat Malaysia’s Tee Jing Yi), Anastasia Prokopenko (beat Kamila Augustyn), Marc Zwiebler (an easy win over Rasheed Ajfan of Maldives) and India’s Parupalli Kashyap over Belgium’s Yuhan Tan.

Kashyap, who made it to the Olympics in the very last qualifying event (the India Open), took time settling in but steadily increased his lead halfway in the opening game.

“I took time to get used to the conditions,” said Kashyap (pictured right). “I thought the shuttles would be slow but they’re actually fast. I was initially confused about my game plan but then he smashed and won a few points and I decided to smash too. I’m very comfortable in these conditions.”

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