Ville leads Finland to historic victory
Date: 2/11/2014 12:30 AM
Published by : Manuel Røsler

The 2014 European Men’s and Women’s Team Championships kicked off in Basel this morning but it was in the afternoon session that the first upset manifested itself. While many of the matches had finished Russia and Finland continued to battle it out in an isolated corner of St. Jakobshalle as Mr Entertainment, Ville Lang became the thorn in the side of a strong Russian line up.

As always with Lang the fortunes of Finland in these teams event normally hinge on which version of his Jekyll and Hyde character shows up. It was clear from the outset that Lang had arrived in Basel focused an determined and his display in a three game opening singles win over Russian giant Vladimir Ivanov proved the catalyst for Finland’s young guns to follow up the Lang led assault.

The vastly underrated Eetu Heino followed up with a win at second men’s to leave the Finn’s in the desirable position of needing just one more win from three remaining matches to create the upset. Ivanov & Sozonov pulled a match back for the Russians in doubles before Kalle Koljonen had a real opportunity to wrap it up and looked in control leading 18-14. Russian Yartsev, sensed the nerves on the Finnish side of the net and gave Russia a lifeline taking the match 21-19 in the third game to send the tie into the deciding match.

Enter Lang and Heino, the singles specialists against the seasoned doubles duo from Russia, Durkin and Lunev. The ensuing 40 minutes proved to be a feast of entertainment as is generally the case when Lang is on court, but even at one set a piece few expected let thought that the Finn’s could pull the impossible off.

Both pairs matched each other point for point up until the interval before a run of three points and some sublime flick serves from Lang moved the Finn’s to within shouting distance of the finish line at 18-14.

In the end an error from The Russians was all Lang and Heino needed to take the match 21-18 and with it an historic win over one of the powerhouses of European Badminton.

"You know we felt good and noticed Lunev in particular was struggling with his serve so we felt very confident during the match" said Heino.

"The hall is on the slow side so we knew that their smashes would be less effective against us, plus we practised for an hour on Wednesday so we were ready" said the ever entertaining Lang.

Near perfect performance from Denmark

Both the Danish men and women got off to 5-0 winning ways in the opening two sessions and were completely dominant in just dropping a solitary set in all ten matches. A sluggish looking Hans-Kristian Vittinghus struggled against Czech number 1 Petr Koukal but his battling qualities took him through in three games to lead the Danish charge.

"To be honest I did not feel good on court today. Last week’s nationals took a lot out of me and a lot of travelling and late arrival here has taken its toll" said a slightly deflated Vittinghus

Viktor Axelsen steadied the ship for the Danes in two games but the newly crowned Danish national champion was also slightly off the pace in the vast expanses of the large hall.

"Like Hans-Kristian I felt off the pace and slow particularly in the opening game but started to find a good rhythm in game two and I am reasonably happy the way I finished the match" said Axelsen.

The Danish men rounded off the match with Emil Holst deputising in doubles alongside Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in the absence of the injured Kim Astrup Sorensen.

Denmark’s ladies had little troubles in their group one encounter also against the Czech Republic taking all five matches in under 30 minutes each, and all while resting new national champion Mia Blichfeldt.

English get off to a solid start

Team England got off to a solid start in both the men’s and women’s event with first time senior cap Fontaine Chapman setting the tone for an English victory. A 5-0 win over Estonia with Chapman leading the way was soon followed by a 5-0 defeat of Ukraine in the evening session with Chapman yet again solid in singles.

"It was nice to get my first senior cap for England. There were some nerves on the lead up to the event but they disappeared as soon as I found my stride in the opening match"

The English men were made to fight a little harder against a spirited battle from near neighbours Scotland. Mathew Carder came close to upsetting the ranking by taking Toby Penty to three games and a controlled victory for Blair & Van Rietvelde over Ellis and Mills will leave the English with a lot to think about. The English do have the luxury of introducing Chris Langridge which should tighten up their second doubles.

Click here for all results of day 1.

Tickets are still available at the main entrance of the St. Jakobshalle. For information please call the infomation desk +41 78 854 59 59 or +41 78 883 59 58.

Article by Mark Phelan (Live in Basel). Photo by BadmintonPhoto

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