Ben Lane and Sean Vendy turned in the performance of their careers to ensure England will contest all three doubles finals at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
When the England duo lost a tight first game in their semifinal to top seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, it seemed likely they would be back on court for the evening’s bronze medal match.
But then came a remarkable turnaround, with Lane and Vendy using the drift to their advantage in the second before an astonishing collapse from the Malaysians in the decisive third: 18-21, 21-17, 21-4.
“It’s unbelievable,” Vendy said. “We’ve played them about six times, and we’re probably 6-0 down or something like that, so to beat them now in front of all our friends and family – it’s almost a dream come true.”
Lane believed the favourites tag had weighed heavily on Chia and Soh, especially since their victory in the mixed team event earlier in the week.
“I think we just got on top of them,” he said. “We knew they were under pressure; they’re seeded higher than us so there was so much expectation on them.
“We knew they were good enough to come back in the third, so we just had to stay on the game plan, which I think I did we amazingly.
“To have three English pairs in the final, I think it’s absolutely amazing. I think we can all go on and hopefully win three golds.”
A dejected Chia could not hide his frustration.
“Our target was to be playing in the gold medal match, so it’s quite disappointing,” he said.
“The feeling is the same as playing in the Olympic semifinal, when we lost to the China pair (Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen). And now we’ve lost to England. We beat them during the mixed team event so we should have had the advantage, but we couldn’t take the chance.”
There was redemption of sorts for Chia and Soh with victory in the evening bronze medal match against compatriots Chan Peng Soon and Tan Kian Meng – Tan’s fourth match of a busy Sunday schedule.
“It was really good to play against our teammates; at least we secured a bronze medal for our country,” Chia said.
Lauren Smith proved the lynchpin for England’s other pairings on Sunday, winning through her mixed semifinal with Marcus Ellis and her women’s doubles match alongside Chloe Birch.
“We’re very proud of ourselves for being tough, northern and stubborn,” she said.
Bronze for Kidambi, Yeo Jia Min
In the bronze medal playoffs, Kidambi Srikanth beat Singapore’s Jason Teh 21-15 21-18, while Singapore clinched a bronze through Yeo Jia Min’s 21-14 22-20 result over Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour.
Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing (mixed doubles), Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand Pullela (women’s doubles) and Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik (men’s doubles) were the other bronze medal winners.