(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Heartbreak for Marcus Ellis/ Lauren Smith
Date: 7/28/2021 8:14 AM
Published by : Yash Sharma
With the world number ones and top seeds Zheng Siwei/ Huang Yaqiong as the heavy favourites for the gold, Marcus Ellis/ Lauren Smith had already proven their mettle as the sole European contenders in the knockouts. However, they lost in straight games in today’s quarterfinal. 

The Team GB athletes had bested the Asian Leg conquerors Dechapol Puavaranukroh/ Sapsiree Taerattanachai in their final group match to top the respective group. The victory had surely paid dividends as it had ensured an easier quarterfinal matchup. Rather than facing the top two Chinese pairs or the home favourites Yuta Watanabe/ Arisa Higashino, they took on Tang Chun Man/ Tse Ying Suet. 

The Hong Kongers, who are the first players from their country to reach an Olympic badminton quarterfinal, had experience and a favourable 3-1 head-to-head record on their side. Although Ellis/ Smith took inspiration from their monumental win over today’s opponents in the All England Open 2020. Unfortunately, the Team GB pair could not replicate the same as they struggled to find their best game. 

-It was definitely an opportunity. We know we can beat them – we did last time – but we also know they are a very good pair. I just think I’m more gutted about our performance than the result. We never got consistency, we didn’t quite nail the tactics like we like to, and maybe we were a little bit off the speed of the game as well, said Smith.

After losing the opener, the European pair led most of the way in the second. Up 18-16, they failed to force a decider. 

-I think when we look back we can say we had some very good performances, but I didn’t come here to lose in the quarterfinals, stated Ellis.

The two left-handers seemed to find the form they showed in 2018 when winning the bronze at the World Championships and elevated their game at the crucial moment. Reeling off five straight points to close out the match 21-13, 21-18.  

In contrast, all the other three group winners made it through to the semifinals. 

The top seeds in perfect form
Tang/ Tse next face the all-conquering top Chinese pair. They blitzed past their persistent rivals Praveen Jordan/ Melati Daeva Oktavianti. The Indonesians had posed some questions during their earlier meetings. However, the world number ones came out with all guns blazing as they wrapped it up 21-17, 21-15 in 35 minutes. 

- We tried our best but made a lot of unforced errors. The pressure is greater at the Olympics, but we can’t use that as an excuse, Oktavianti offered. 

The other semifinal matchup
Elsewhere, the Thai pair faced the home favourites. Despite pocketing the first game 21-15, they failed to settle their nerves and got tired. 

- They were driving things so hard in the first game, so we changed our tactics to receive the shuttle. That change made things work, Higashino explained.

- We kept up our concentration and saw that our opponents had stopped moving. That was a chance for us to beat them, Watanabe added. 

Moreover, Watanabe’s delectable trademark drop shots kept the third seeds guessing. They lost the next two games 21-16, 21-14. 

- In the last two games, we didn't defend enough. In the first game, we had attacked more. We were tired sometimes but not throughout the match, Puavaranukroh acknowledged. 

The last quarterfinal featured the second seeds Wang Yilyu/ Huang Dongping against the Koreans See SeungJae/ Chae YuJung. In tune with the performance of their more illustrated compatriots, the Chinese eased past their opponents. Down 15-9 in the second game, they scored nine consecutive points to lead 18-15. It was soon all over: 21-9, 21-16. 

- In the end, the Chinese pair pressed us a lot. They were really powerful and really fast. We were surprised about that, Chae conceded.

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