Team Australia stepped up to the show court on day two of the Mixed Team event at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Their second Group A match against Pakistan was the perfect opportunity for Australia to showcase their youthful talent. Jack Yu, Angela Yu and Kaitlyn Ea may not be ‘junior players’ anymore, but between the three of them, they are the reigning Junior women’s and mixed doubles Oceania champions (from 2019).
This morning, they rose to the occasion and got their first taste of victory on one of the world’s biggest stages, contributing towards Australia’s first Mixed Team victory (3-2) against a determined team from Pakistan.
Jack Yu and Kaitlyn Ea settled in quickly as they found a consistent rhythm in the mixed doubles to prevail over two games. Jack had played in yesterday’s match against Sri Lanka, but it was the debut appearance for Kaitlyn who complimented Jack’s rear court with some fantastic net coverage to bring the first point in for Australia.
Jack Yu/Kaitlyn Ea (AUS) vs Murad Ali/Ghazala Siddiquepak (PAK) 21-17 21-17
“It was harder than I expected on the show court. There was more drift and brighter lights and it felt much bigger. I don’t think we performed our best, but we eventually found ways”, says Jack
“It felt really big but seeing all the people made it exciting, but I was a bit nervous as well. It is a good practice for our individual campaign next week”, says Kaitlyn
While Australia’s Jacob Schueler might be a higher ranked player, Pakistan’s Muhammad Bhatti benefits from greater experience, having competed in the 2014 and 2018 editions of the Commonwealth Games. His experience shone through in this morning’s encounter as he outwitted the Australian to bring the tie back level at 1-1.
Muhammad Irfan Saeed Bhatti (PAK) vs Jacob Schueler (AUS) 21-18 21-16
“It was really overwhelming. I didn’t know what to expect walking out there, I was nervous. I’m pretty disappointed and frustrated, couldn’t find any length and it’s a very different hall to the one I’ve been training with here. I was getting a bit confused and frustrated. Now I just need to move on and learn from it”, says Jacob
The women’s singles was a grueling contest which was anyone’s for the taking over two incredibly close games. Ultimately, it was Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad who was able to seize control in the climactic moments which gave her team the advantage.
Mahoor Shahzad (PAK) vs Tiffany Ho (AUS) 21-18 -21-19
“It was exciting and there was a lot of hype walking out onto the show court. I was really excited to go out and play. The conditions were a little bit different; the shuttles are slow, and it was hard to control but it was really good experience with all those people watching. I was pretty upset as I was leading at 11, maybe just a lack of concentration and slipped up a little bit. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t finish it. Hopefully it will be better next time”, says Tiffany
Neither Tran or Jack seemed phased by the heavy prospect of a defeat to Pakistan. With the weight on the match on their shoulders, the pair were fast out of the blocks, putting on a dominant display in the first game and a consistent approach in the second to keep Australia’s dream alive.
Tran Hoang Pham/Jack Yu (AUS) vs Murad Ali/Muhammad Irfan Saeed Bhatti (PAK) 21-11 21-19
“It feels great, I’m happy to help the country win a point and make it even. We wanted to go in and take control of the game and play a more dominant style and be scarier than the opponents. I’m feeling more comfortable in this environment, I quite like playing on such a big stage and I like the applause going on around me”, says Jack
“I feel good as well, we played well today. I’m happy with that performance! The pressure doesn’t weigh on me, I try not to think about it, instead focus on my breathing, trying to play the right shot and just focus on the game”, says Tran
Finally, the reigning women’s doubles junior champions from the VICTOR Oceania Junior Championships 2019, Kaitlyn Ea and Angela Yu, proved that they are not juniors anymore. In the most convincing match of the morning session, both players refused to give way and conquered the net to win the tie for Australia and lift spirits ahead of their mountainous challenge this evening – their final group match against defending champions, India.
Kaitlyn Ea/Angela Yu (AUS) vs Mahoor Shahzad/Ghazala Siddique (PAK) 21-11 21-9
“It was really different in that hall, we’ve trained with lots of shuttles on that court so we were trying to keep it in but then we realised we could hit it as hard as we could because the shuttles were very slow. I’m pretty happy with that, it feels great to win it for Australia, it was pretty nerve-wrecking at the beginning”, says Angela
“Our game plan was pretty simple, we just wanted to keep it in and aim to hit down the middle. Now we rest, recover and reset for the match this evening as I think it will be pretty tough, but we will do our best”, says Kaitlyn
Australia’s 3-2 loss to Sri Lanka yesterday leaves them in a difficult position, with India standing in their way of qualification for the knockout rounds.
Team Australia will be back at 7pm local time (BST) to take on the top seeds. Check out all results from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games here.