Coming into these European junior championships Ukraine’s Maryna Ilyinskaya was muted as an outside chance for a medal in the women’s singles. The 18-year-old from Kharkov burst onto the senior circuit as a 15-year-old and has served her time coming through qualification rounds in an effort to improve her game.
Feared as one of those players who can match and beat the circuits and Europe’s junior best on her day the Ukrainian was always the player the rest of the field wanted to avoid in this European junior draw.
In today’s semi-final Ilynskaya not only endeared herself to the packed hall but displayed a maturity and composure that we have not seen before to send Denmark’s Irina Andersen out of the competition and put herself within one match of a European gold.
The Ukrainian had to do it all the hard way today. Andersen was quickest out of the blocks and took the first set 21-14. Ilynskaya looking completely off the pace in the opener. The second set was the opposite of the first. Both women served up a treat of prime singles badminton and Andersen had the final in her sights with a match point at 20-19.
Ilynskaya’s new found confidence and her work at home with sports psychologists clearly made the difference today as in former years she would have probably lost this match but that was not the case today. It was clear there was a lot of self-talk going on at the pivotal juncture at the end of the second set with the Ukrainian taking the game 23-21
In the deciding set both women served up a treat of all in women’s singles. There was little or nothing between them but in the end the fighting spirit of Ilynskaya got her over the line 21-18 a win the French crowd fully supported.
“I feel like a rock star right now. This was such a hard match as Irina is a great player and I think the best player in this tournament with many great results.” Said the Ukrainian after her dramatic victory.
To watch Ilynskaya's full post match interview click HERE
The Ukrainian will now go into tomorrow’s final full of confidence but will still most likely be a slight underdog against the tournament favourite Julie Dawall Jakobsen after the Dane defeated Yvonne Li of Germany in three tough sets.
Popov & Merkle set up all French final
As the top seeds in the men’s singles draw both Toma Junior Popov (pictured above) and Arnaud Merkle had the weight of home expectations on their shoulders. Both men have coped admirably and both have delivered to set up an all French final. Popov defeated England’s David Jones expending minimum energy in doing so while Merkle was taken the distance by Joran Kweekel of the Netherlands.
“I feel so relaxed and have enjoyed this tournament so far” said Popov after his victory over Jones. “I can feel the French crowd with me and after I managed to beat Nhat Nguyen in the quarter final I feel I can win this tournament”
To watch Popov's post match interview click HERE
In the doubles events there was a poor return for Poland who lost all three semi-finals they contested while Denmark returned a 50% success rate in the women’s doubles semi-final with Boje & Jakobsen easy winners. The Danes will now play Swedes Karlsson & Magnusson in a final that will be full of intrigue and top quality badminton.
Scots Dunn and O’Donnell continued their fairy tale run in Mulhouse beating the top seeded Poles Smilowski & Swierczynska for a shot at the title tomorrow. Their opponents will be pre-tournament favourites Alimov and Davletova after the Russians eased past first time medallist Ivanic & Arih of Slovenia.
In the final match of the day France advanced their top seeded men’s doubles to the final. Thom Gicquel and Toma Junior Popov came through in two games against the tournaments surprize packet Lundgaard & Toft of Denmark. The French will now play English duo Max Flynn and Callum Hemming (pictured above) for the title as best European juniors.
For all results from today’s semi-finals in Mulhouse click HERE
For a full photo gallery from today’s play at #EJC17 click HERE
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Article my Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe. Images by Mark & Ben Phelan (Live in Mulhouse)