A mix of youthful vigour and craftiness of experience will entertain spectators as the badminton competition at the Baku 2015 European Games enters the knockout phase tomorrow.
With emerging names like Delphine Lansac (France), Line Kjaersfeldt and Emil Holst (Denmark), and more experienced hands such as Scott Evans (Ireland), Petr Koukal (Czech Republic), Petya Nedelcheva (Bulgaria) and Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark) in the fray, fans are getting to sample some of the variety of Europe’s present and future.
All five categories have a group stage followed by knockout. The group stage, that began Monday, features eight groups each in the two singles categories and four groups each in the three doubles categories. The top two players in each singles group will progress to the Round of 16, while the top two pairs in doubles will enter the quarter-finals.
The group matches over the first few days have played to expectations. European Championships runner-up Anna Thea Madsen’s campaign started strongly as she won her first two Women’s Singles Group E matches.
The Dane, expected to top the group, powered past Airi Mikkela (Finland) 21-15 21-15 in her opening Women’s Singles encounter on Monday before consolidating her position with a 21-9 21-8 result over Sara Hognadottir (Iceland) yesterday.
Madsen’s compatriot, title favourite Line Kjaersfeldt, also breezed to straight-games wins in her two matches in Group B. Kjaersfeldt was able to handle the challenge of Serbia’s Milica Simic and Spain’s Clara Azurmendi with ease.
Bulgarian veteran Petya Nedelcheva (above), another strong contender, overcame France’s Delphine Lansac 21-13 21-10 in her opening match before she received a walkover from Switzerland’s Nicole Ankli in Group C.
Men’s Singles top seed Evans qualified for the knockout stage with an all-win record in Group A. Among others to enter the knockout stage were Misha Zilberman (Israel), Rosario Maddaloni (Italy), Dieter Domke (Germany; featured image), Pablo Abian (Spain), Kestutis Navickas (Lithuania), Petr Koukal (Czech Republic), Michal Rogalski (Poland), Vladimir Malkov (Russia) and Eetu Heino (Finland). Turkey’s Emre Vural also qualified behind Koukal from Group E after beating Igor Bjelan (Serbia) 21-10 17-21 21-9.
Men’s Doubles had an interesting group finale lined up between Milosz Bochat/Pawel Pietryja (Poland; above) and Matijs Dierickx/Freek Golinski (Belgium) after both pairs won their two group matches. Favoured pairs such as Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark, Group A) and Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov (Russia, Group B) stayed on track for the title with two group wins each.
In Women’s Doubles, Turkish pair Ozge Bayrak/Neslihan Yigit (above) secured an all-win record in Group C. The third seeds topped the group without dropping a game in three matches. Other pairs to ensure their entry into the quarter-finals winning all their group matches were Stefani Stoeva/Gabriela Stoeva (Bulgaria, Group A), Ekaterina Bolotova/Evgeniya Kosetskaya (Russia, Group B) and Maria Helsbol/Lena Grebak (Denmark, Group D).
Gaetan Mittelheisser and Audrey Fontaine (France) topped Mixed Doubles Group D with straight-games wins over Raphael Beck/Kira Kattenbeck (Germany) and Gergely Krausz/Laura Sarosi (Hungary). Ireland’s Sam Magee/Chloe Magee (below) too chalked up two wins to lead the table in Group A.