English National Badminton Championships 2012
03-05 February, Bolton Arena

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Day Two, Men's Singles
Raj risks a long Saturday
Richard Eaton

Rajiv Ouseph’s bid to set a record of five successive national men’s singles title carried him into the final with two coolly taken wins which sandwiched a curious attempt to make a name for himself as a doubles player.

The England number one certainly looked a class above the field as he overcame Neil White by 21-8, 21-8 in the quarter-finals and Ben Beckman 21-18, 21-17 in the semis, but what happened in between brought the day’s wriest remark.

It came from Carl Baxter, the friend and rival whom Ouseph will meet in the final for the fourth time, and who was as surprised as many others to see Ouseph battling it out in partnership with Marcus Ellis.

They put up a spirited performance to take the redoubtable Anthony Clark and Kristian Roebuck to three games in the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles, leaving Ouseph with little time to get some food and prepare to play Beckman.

“Everyone expects Raj to win,” said Baxter after his 21-6, 21-14 victory over Toby Penty, the English junior champion, perhaps even implying that Raj himself expected it too.

“I shall keep him out there as long as I can - and maybe that doubles will come back to haunt him,” Baxter added with a grin.

Ouseph explained his decision to play two events, thus risking a long Saturday, by saying: “There was a switch and Marcus was left with no-one to play with and I thought, well, why not.”

One wondered though whether he calculated that by delving into some of the fiery flat rallies and also the subtleties of doubles he might help add valuable extra nuances to his game now that an Olympic qualifying place is looking almost within his grasp.

Baxter meanwhile showed that he continues to do well since adopting a more relaxed approach over the last three months, during which he has won the Canadian international and reached the final of the Scottish international.

He won a quarter-final against the unseeded Jamie Bonsels by 21-15, 21-14 before overcoming Penty with something to spare by 21-6, 21-14 in the semis, even though he didn’t feel especially great.

“Belief is what I was struggling with,” Penty admitted, perhaps because some of his sting seemed to have been drawn by a long match earlier in the day.

This saw Penty trail 10-12 and 15-16 in the final game against Alex Lane, the European under 17 champion from Devon, who covered the court with tremendous speed and also prospered when the shuttle was coming at him fast.

The fourth-seeded Penty tied the shuttle up at the net a little more during the final few rallies when he rescued himself against an adrenaline-filled opponent who was getting more and more pumped up.

He finished it quickly, with a low serve which elicited a lifted return that he buried instantly. Lane hurled down his racket in fury, though on reflection he may feel that his was an encouraging effort.

Richard Eaton

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