Badminton Life

English Stars Shine in Montreal

After clinching a place in the English Olympic team last week, you may have thought that Andrew Smith would be taking things a little bit easier but that was evidently not the case.

Taking part in the KLRC Atwater Canadian International, receiving a bye in the first round helped Smith along but the rest of his success was his own hard work. Given that the Olympic Games are the pinnacle of most sporting stars careers, it is probably better for the players to maintain a level of peak form and badminton fans can probably expect to see many of this summers stars building up their form before the real action begins.

The 23 year old from Portsmouth was up against Japanese star Koichi Saeki in his first match of the tournament and a convincing and comfortable victory set him up for an encounter with Jose Antonio Crespo from Spain. The two Europeans put on a fine display of badminton for the Montreal fans but yet again the English star triumphed and booked his place in the quarter finals to face yet another Japanese opponent. Given that the Asian teams are going to provide stern opposition in the 2008 Olympic Games, this tournament has provided Smith with some good practise for what he may face in Beijing.

In the quarter finals, Smith again turned in a convincing victory and won the first set by 21-13. His opponent Kenichi Tagao, no doubt aware that another limp showing in the second set would seal his elimination from the tournament, improved his game but Smith held his nerve and won the second set 21-17.

Three convincing victories in a row had earned Smith a place in the semi-finals but things are likely to get tougher from hereon in. Smith's opponent in the semi-final match is Andrew Dabeka, a Canadian playing on his home soil. No doubt the local crowd will be rightly behind the Canadian star and given that he is sixth seed in the tournament, he must be fancying his chances of booking a place in the final.

Andrew Smith is not the only English player in the semi-finals as he is joined by Carl Baxter. Baxter also received a bye in the first but received a trickier first match than Smith. It took three sets for Baxter to overcome Christian Boesiger from Switzerland. The next match was more straightforward as Australia's Stuart Gomez was despatched 21-16, 21-12. This result meant that Baxter faced the American player Eric Go in the quarter finals but again, Baxter was emphatic in victory and the margin of 21-13, 22-20 was fully deserved.

Things weren't all great for English players at the tournament though as Rajiv Ouseph was defeated in the quarter finals. His defeat came at the hands of second seed Shoji Sato of Japan so there was no great shame in the loss but it would have been a disappointment for Ouseph. Sato now provides the opposition for Baxter in the semi-final and the English star will be looking top exact some form of revenge for his fellow countryman.

With English players making up two of the last four of the tournament, the KLRC Atwater Canadian International has certainly been a good tournament for the team.

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