Pictured: Grant Manzoney, Australia. Photo credit = Craig Burgess, Badminton Photo
It wasn’t the start that Australia wanted in their first appearance in Para-Badminton at the Paralympic Games, but Grant Manzoney and Caitlin Dransfield will take the experience and look to improve on Friday after losing their opening matches.
Dransfield’s first match in the SL4 classification was against world No.3, Norway’s Helle Sofie Segoey. Dransfield started strongly in each set before the class of Segoey came through winning 21-17 and 21-13.
“She’s world number 3 so I wasn’t going in with too higher expectations,” Dransfield said. “Last time I played her I got single figures so I was happy with my double figures effort and I thought I played well.”
Dransfield’s second match, against Thailand’s Chanida Srinavakul, was perhaps expected to yield better results with one win each previously, but a series of unforced errors in the first set proved costly and Srinavakul won the game 21-8.
The drift across the court proved difficult for Dransfield to adjust to and find her range, with expectation and nerves getting the better of her.
The second set was much more even, but Srinavakul closed out the game 21-16 to win the match.
“It didn’t play out like I wanted it to,” Dransfield said. “I was going in confident but she hit better shots. I was on the fast side first and I hit too many out during that critical set and then I was just playing catch up the whole time.
“Yeah, it is (hard to find your length with the drift) especially with the far side because half the time I didn’t think I was putting much effort into it and then it still flew out.”
Grant Manzoney faced a tough draw in the WH2, drawn against the world No. 1 and world No. 3 players. He knew it would be an uphill battle and the Korean No. 3, Kyung Hoon Kim, did not disappoint.
Manzoney struggled to find range, also troubled with the cross-court drift, and was overawed by the experience. There were several highlights with strong rallies allowing Manzoney to showcase his impressive range, but the Korean was too strong, taking the match 21-8, 21-5.
“The feeling when I was lining up behind my opponent, the umpires being called out, I’ve been through this at international tournaments and it just suddenly dawned on me that wow, I’m actually going out in the green and gold and representing my country at a Paralympic Games,” Manzoney said.
“At the end of the day, the score isn’t what I wanted but I’m going up against a guy who has been at the top of the world for a long time. But I would have liked to have played better. I just felt heavy, like people on their feet would say concrete shoes.
“I’m disappointed, I’ve always been the type of person that puts a fair bit of pressure on myself. I’m a realistic sort of person so I didn’t come here with delusional thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to come away with a medal’ or anything like that. Sometimes I think I let that pressure get to me a little bit.”
Manzoney has one more match tomorrow, against world No. 1, Korean Jung Jun Kim, about 1.20pm AEST
Only one player has beaten Kim in the last few years.
Dransfield will take on Canadian Olivia Meier at 7.40pm AEST.
“I’ve never played the Canadian girl before so I just want to go in and actually play good shots,” she said.
The top ranked player of each group after the group stages will proceed to the quarterfinals.
First published by Jodie Hawkins, Paralympics Australia