Denmark held on to their European Mixed Team Championships crown, but only just. France were within a whisker of claiming their first title, but Viktor Axelsen’s victory from match point down helped them stay on track before they eventually made it past the fighting French, 3-2.
After Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue put the French ahead in the opening match over Mathias Christiansen/Amalie Magelund, Christo Popov nearly carried his team to an imposing 2-0 lead. The French left-hander, facing world No.1 Axelsen, had match point in the second game at 20-19, but Axelsen stood firm and forced the decider, winning 15-21 22-20 21-14.
“It was a tough game. I didn’t make anything work at all today, and it wasn’t pretty either game-wise or mentally. But having said that, that’s what it took to win, and I’m happy that I pulled myself up and managed to win the game.” — Viktor Axelsen
Line Christophersen made it 2-1 with a quick win over Qi Xuefei, before Gicquel and Toma Junior Popov once again put the French in contention, beating Kim Astrup/Frederik Sogaard 21-19 21-19.
With Delphine Delrue and Margot Lambert taking the opening game of the final match against Maiken Fruergaard/Sara Thygesen, the pressure was on the Danes, but the experienced Danes refused to yield, and steadied the ship with a 17-21 21-15 21-14 result in the longest match of the day, to help Denmark retain the title – their 19th overall and fifth in succession.
“Sara and Maiken, when they lost the first set, it was a long way home. But I have to say that they have shown their best side this week and they can be immensely proud of the performance they have delivered, not just today but throughout the week. They’ve really moved on,” — head coach Kenneth Jonassen.
Semifinals: France Overcome Germany
France made the final for the second straight time, beating group-mates Germany in the semifinals to progress to the title round against Denmark.
France had earlier blanked Germany 5-0 in their group tie, but in the semifinal the Germans proved harder to quell. Yvonne Li fought hard in the opening women’s singles before going down to Qi Xuefei. Toma Junior Popov made it 2-0 for the French beating Fabian Roth, but with Linda Efler/Isabel Lohau getting the better of Margot Lambert/Anne Tran, the Germans sniffed a chance at reversing their group result.
However, Popov brothers Christo and Toma Junior survived a close first game against Marvin Seidel/Jan Colin Volker and breezed through in the second to seal the semifinal place.
“My job was to win the quickest way possible because I might play two matches, so I’m really happy about this performance. I’m enjoying playing in front of our home crowd” — Toma Junior Popov.
Group Stage: Bulgaria Fight Hard
Denmark was in Group A with England, Scotland and Ukraine, and expectedly topped the group losing only two matches in the process, against Scotland and England. France were just as dominant in Group B, beating Netherlands 4-1, Bulgaria 4-1, and Germany 5-0. Bulgaria fought hard but fell 3-2 in two close ties against Germany and Netherlands. Germany’s 4-1 win over Netherlands ensured second place in the group and a semifinal place.