(Photo: Alan Spink)
Estonia complete big comeback to topple Sweden
Date: 12/10/2020 3:12 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Group 1 in the European Mixed Team Championships Qualification got underway in Milton Keynes, England. Sweden took on Estonia in a well-fought match. 

Players arriving in England two days before the start were subjected to the increasingly familiar COVID-19 restrictions necessary in competitive sport. However, once national anthems were sung, they were ready to play. Sweden even adding in a team battle cry!

First up was the mixed doubles. The established pair of Melker Z-Bexell/ Tilda Sjoo, Swedish Junior champions in 2018 and 171 in the world, took on the scratch pairing of Kristjan Kaljurand/ Helina Rüütel.

Despite not playing with each other, the more experienced Estonians, with the Latvia International 2020 mixed and women’s doubles champion, Rüütel dominating the net, took an early lead. At one point leading 15-7. However, they lost their composure and allowed the Swedes to make a big comeback and take the opening game 21-19. 

It was the Estonians who ran away with the second game and looked the more likely to win the match, but Z-Bexell/Sjoo were able to flip the match in the deciding game, winning 21-15. Attempting to explain how this happened, Z-Bexell said.

-We tried to get a bit of momentum in that lost game and keep going in that third game. It is a big win for us. 

Burestedt impresses in the singles
Centre of Excellence player, Felix Burestedt, who trains in Denmark, had to spend two weeks away from the centre and do his training back home in Sweden. This was to ensure he would be able to travel to England for the tournament. But he is in good spirits about this.

-I had a good preparation. We were together as a group so it was nice to hang around with the players and get to know everyone a bit more, which was a good thing going into this event.

Facing Mikk Järveoja, the tall Swede was able to produce a straight-game victory in just 22 minutes. 

-I feel very good actually. It’s a nice hall here with good shuttles and I felt good on court. 

Kuuba with a must-win match
Admitting she felt a bit of pressure before this match, Kristin Kuuba faced Ashwathi Pillai to keep Estonia in the tie. Three years ago, the two played in Norway, with Kuuba winning in a solid two-game victory. 

It was looking like it would be the same, however, in the second game Pillai dug in well and even had game point. But the experienced Kuuba focused on the basics and came through 23-21.

-I was a little bit too passive and she was able to get into a rhythm. She plays really aggressive so I was struggling there. I focused to not play many mistakes and crazy shots at the end.

Another three-game clash 
Joel Hansson/ Melker Z-Bexell and Kristjan Kaljurand/ Raul Käsner met again after their memorable match in Group 2 of the European Men’s Team Championships this February. That time it went to the final few rallies in the decider, with the Swedes winning 21-19. 

The Estonians took the initiative winning 21-18 in the first, only for the Swedes to bounce back stronger and quickly forcing the decider. In all matches today, momentum fluctuated greatly, as the Estonians were able to develop a healthy 11-2 lead at the change of ends. They were too far ahead to catch and were able to seal the win and level the tie at 2-2. 

Winner takes all
Former European Junior Champion Johanna Magnusson, who is partnerless after the shock retirement of Emma Karlsson, took to the court with Moa Sjoo against the scratch pairing of Helina Rüütel/ Kristin Kuuba. 

Rüütel/ Kuuba took the opening game 21-16. The Swedes fought hard to get back into the match, but the firepower of the Estonians was too much and Estonia finished off a big comeback from 2-0 down, to win the tie 3-2. 

-I am satisfied with how we played. We haven’t played together for a long time and it was a nice point to Estonia. 

England plays Hungary at 14:00 (local time) in the other group match.

For livestreaming from this and all qualification groups, read: EMTCQ: How you can follow the action

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