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Badminton All England 2010: British mixed doubles pairings fall flat to Asian power

The dream all-English semi-final in mixed doubles, guaranteeing a British finalist for the first time since 2007, fell short at the All England Championships on Friday night.

Anthony Clark and Heather Olver couldn't replicate their exploits of the previous two rounds with a tired display against Korean pair Lee Yong Dae and Lee Hyo Jung in the last eight while Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork fell in similar fashion against Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir, Indonesia's No 2 seeds.

Expectations had hinged on the world No 24 pair - despite both pairings facing superior-ranked opponents - after Clark and Olver lost 21-19, 21-17 to the current Olympic mixed champions in a match they pretty much always chased. Robertson and Wallwork had their moments, too, but the Indonesians' skill levels just proved too much in their 21-18, 21-19 victory.

The match had some edgy moments, not least with the Britons trailing 18-17 in the first game and an Indonesian lob going well wide of the back court.

However the side umpire incredibly called it in, much to the chagrin of both home players. Television replays then confirmed that the shuttle had gone several inches over the line but the umpire, who endured a tough outing in the chair, still refused to overrule - despite glimpsing at the big screen positioned directly in front of her.

The two-point gap proved pivotal but the Britons came back well in the second to open up a 10-8 lead with astute attacking play from Robertson and Wallwork's ability at the net. But their advantage was soon overturned.

Robertson said: "There were a couple of bad calls but there was one each in the end.

"Sometimes it is hard to see how they get them so wrong, but they evened themselves out, as they usually do. We played well again but they are a quality pair."

Earlier, Clark and Olver found themselves in a similar position as they quickly went 7-2 down. Their early plight wasn't helped when Clark hit a backhand into Olver's neck from a few feet away. Clark gave a shuddering jump on impact and even the umpire sounded a gasp picked up from his microphone.

To their credit they managed to haul themselves back level to 7-7 and took the lead 11-10 at the interval when a fast-paced net rally was won by Olver down the middle.

However, problems trying to get the shuttle over the net beset the British pair thereafter and they never got back into the match. They lost five points in a row to fall 19-15 behind and despite some tough interchanging points won by the Brits, the Koreans were happy to take the opener.

Kenichi Tago, the young Japanese contender, won a thriller against his Chinese opponent on the adjacent court at the start of the second game. How the Britons could have done with some Japanese spirit to stir up the home crowd. This looked an even taller order at 9-2 down and the pair on the defensive. There were few signs of Clark's attacking prowess, too.

But the British pair - both pairings for that matter - can be proud of their displays this week. After all, this is only their second tournament together and without a world ranking.

Donna Kellogg, Clark's former partner who retired in December, will be presented with a British Olympic Association award on Saturday, in recognition of her achievements within the sport. Clark took no time to signal Olver as the only replacement from England's pool of young talent. He seems to have made the right choice.

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