Australia suffered a frustrating loss on day one of the Mixed Team event at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Their opening Group A match against Sri Lanka came down to the wire, ending with a narrow 3-2 defeat.
Commonwealth Games debutant Lin Ying Xiang opened the campaign with a powerful smash return to his opponent’s flick serve, displaying confidence over nerves on one of the world’s biggest stages. Alongside Gronya Somerville, the new pair found themselves in relatively new territory, having only trained as a pair for the last four weeks as Gronya’s anticipated partner, Kenneth Choo (who she defended her Oceania Championships crown with in April) did not receive his Australian passport in time to meet the qualification criteria.
The Australians set the pace in the opening half, before the Sri Lankan’s slowly constructed a counterattack to take the momentum into the second and put the first point on the board.
Sachin Dias and Thilini Hendahewa (SRI) vs Lin Ying Xiang/Gronya Somerville (AUS) 21-18 21-14
“We started strong, but then they stepped up a bit in the front and mid court to get the attack more. The shuttles seemed crazy slow, obviously we’ve been training with them the whole time but they’ve chosen a slower speed, so it was harder to get through some of those rallies”, say Gronya
All of Australia’s male players are making their debut appearance at this Commonwealth Games. This year’s Oceania men’s singles runner up was elated to accept his invitation a couple of months ago and was the second match on court today. Playing against the higher ranked Niluka Karunaratne (131 to his 326), the pair engaged in some long, heated rallies with the Australian looking to make an emphatic comeback towards the end of the first game with a run of five consecutive points. Ultimately, it was the Sri Lankan who found the answers quicker to get two games over the line.
Niluka Karunaratne (SRI) vs Nathan Tang (AUS) 21-18 21-12
“I was feeling good, but once you step on court you see how big the stadium feels, it makes you a bit nervous, but I think I played pretty well. Fitness is not the issue for me, but the change of ends was hard, the shuttle was so much slower”, says Nathan
The pressure to keep Australia’s dream alive came down to Oceania’s seven-time women’s singles champion, Wendy Chen. The two-time Olympian and now two-time Commonwealth Games athlete benefitted from such experience to deliver a calm and collected performance in two comfortable games to secure Australia’s first point.
Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen (AUS) vs Vidara Vidanage (SRI) 21-10 21-13
“I’m really happy to be here and my team really needed that. I was a little bit nervous heading on to the court but after the first interval I was able to get my game on!”, says Wendy
Next on court, the youngest and older members of Team Australia (Jack Yu and Tran Pham) partnered up for the men’s doubles. While the new pairing managed to stay within reach of their opponents for a large portion of their two games, their more established opponents found the cracks to ensure Sri Lanka’s overall victory, leading 3-1 into the final match.
Sachin Dias/Niluka Karunaratne (SRI) vs Jack Yu/Tran Pham (AUS) 21-16 21-14
“It took us a while to get used to the court. Today’s match was ok, we did a good job, better than expected. To me, it felt amazing as I like to step onto the big stage, it gives me a chance to test and display my badminton skills against the world”, says Jack
In the final tie, Wendy left her singles play behind to team up with Gronya. It is not the first time the pair have competed together, finishing runners up at the Irish Open 2021. Seemingly determined to finish Australia’s opening campaign on a high, the pair maintained a lead throughout the first game and stormed ahead with a comfortable second game to ensure a modest 3-2 score line and a frustratingly narrow loss in the Group A match.
Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen/Gronya Somerville (AUS) vs Thilini Hendahewa/Vidara Vidanage (SRI) 21-18 21-14
“I think we were a bit slow starting, maybe watching the men’s doubles a bit too eagerly to see if we could win that tie. But then we got into it and got going and figured out the shuttle and the tactics to win“, says Gronya.
Team Australia will be back in action on day two of the mixed team event in Group A, where they will compete against Pakistan on the show court from 9am local time (BST), before tackling the defending champions India in the evening, from 7pm local time (BST).
Check out all results from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games here.