Australia’s Men’s and Women’s Doubles teams went down fighting on the first evening of Olympic competition at Wembley Arena tonight.
Glenn Warfe and Ross Smith faced a tough opening encounter versus the well-oiled machinery of world number two pair, Fu Haifeng/Cai Yun of China.
If the quality of short serving is any indication of nervousness, the Australians maintained their rhythm and put the shuttle into play without service errors and were able to live with the pace of the smashes for most of the rallies until they would occasionally strike it long of the back line.
The second-seeded duo claimed the first game 21-11.
“We played better in the second and we were 17-17 against the world champions. It shows we can perform at a high level but the Chinese played the big points better,” assessed Smith candidly.
The Chinese closed out the match 21-17 but the crowd showed appreciation for the tall Australians’ enterprise in the front and back attacking formation for the majority of the points, keeping their opponents side by side instead of allowing Cai – one of the best net players in the sport – to advance and attack like in the first game.
The Australian women’s should long remember their match against Indonesia’s top pair and world number 12, Greysia Polli/Meiliana Jauhari. Overcoming a slow start, Leanne Choo/Renuga Veeran (featured image) adopted their trademark all-or-nothing game plan which almost paid dividends.
The Indonesians – helped by their opponents’ unforced errors – initially exploited gaps in the Australians’ defence to take the first game, 21-11. Undaunted, the Australians regrouped in the second game as a tighter configuration with both women adept at taking turns executing winners from the rear court and forecourt. They also read their opponents’ movements and Veeran at one point moved forward to put away a Jauhari drop shot.
An Indonesian service fault near the end benefitted the Australians who had seen their four-point lead eroded, but a shuttle Veeran let fall following a long rally was called in on the back line; evening the score 20-20. Persistence by Veeran paid off as she didn’t wait to be gifted the remaining points but took them instead, ultimately with a winning smash at net to seal the second game 22-20.
Stung by the Australian offensive, Indonesia attacked with new vigour in the decider; Polli squealing with each exertion as she determined to smash through the Australians.
“We prepared for this match against the Indonesians. They changed tactics in the third game and we continued doing the same thing as the second and did not readjust, that was the difference,” reasoned Choo of the Indonesians leading all the way to 21-13 in the decider.
This match was the highlight of the night as the most persons cheered for the underdogs from Down Under.
“The Aussies in the audience were right beside our court and it was like playing at home. I could hear it and feel it. (It) gave us such a boost during the toughest points,” said Choo of the watershed match.
Just as the Indonesians had gained confidence by pushing Chinese world number two pair, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, to three games in recent months, now the Australians had achieved a similar breakthrough.