Marin and Axelsen given good work-outs
Date: 4/27/2016 6:11 PM
Published by : Mark Phelan
Double World champion Carolina Marin (main picture) began the defence of her women’s singles title on day two of the European Championships in La Roche-sur-Yon. But it wasn’t the gentle start she perhaps anticipated. On another day of drama the top seed was taken the distance by Akvile Stapusaityte before overcoming the Lithuanian world No. 79 21-14 20-22 21-9 in 59 minutes.

Top seed Marin had to go the distance despite recovering from 20-17 down in the second to draw level at 20-20. But Stapusaityte was not fazed and took the game to force the decider. Alesia Zaitsaiva of Belarus is Marin’s next obstacle in the last 16 tomorrow.

But she wasn’t the only one to make a nervous start. Earlier Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen almost trod on a banana skin when facing yesterday’s hero Lucas Claerbout. The second seed came through 23-21 16-21 22-20 after 65 minutes against the French wild card.

A relieved Axelsen, a bronze medallist at the 2012 and 2014 Europeans, said:  "In the end I am happy to have taken the victory. But I had a lot of difficulties and Lucas played really well"

But Claerbout may be ruing a missed opportunity by letting slip four game points after leading 20-17 in the opener before Axelsen snatched it at the first opportunity. On top of that Claerbout saved three match points at 20-17 down in the decider before Axelsen won at the fourth time of asking.

Englishman Toby Penty probably also felt like it was one that got away in his clash with his match with European Games champion and Sunday’s Dutch International winner Pablo Abian of Spain. He held two game points in the opener before losing it 23-21 and although he hit back to level the match 21-16 seventh seed Abian finished the stronger, leading virtually all the way to take the third game 21-11 after 63 minutes.

But no problems for defending champion Jan O. Jorgensen. The Danish star defeated Blagovest Kisyov of Bulgaria 21-8 21-14 in 26 minutes while team-mate and third seed Hans-Kristian Vittinghus took just a minute longer to brush aside Swiss rival Mathias Bonny 21-16 21-9.

Vittinghus remains on course for a revenge quarter-final clash with fifth seed Rajiv Ouseph. The English fifth seed beat him on the way to silver two years ago in Kazan. For that rematch to happen Vittinghus must beat Daniel Font of Wales or Sweden’s Henri Hurskainen tomorrow while Ouseph takes on France’s Lucas Corvee.

France’s big singles hope Brice Leverdez, who took Jorgensen to three games in their quarter-final clash in 2012, opened up with a 21-7 21-12 against Icelander  Kari Gunnarsson in just 24 minutes. Victory over Israel’s Misha Zilberman tomorrow could earn the sixth seed that quarter-final rematch with the World No. 6. But first Jorgensen must overcome Dutchman Nick Fransman.

Long matches were proving to be the order of the day with Petr Koukal (pictured above) opening the programme with a 61-minute win over eighth seed Raul Must. The Czech star, who defeated Austria’s David Obernosterer in straight games yesterday, overcame Must 13-21 21-18 21-16 to leave the Estonian as the only one of the eight men’s singles seeds not to reach the last 16. 

Koukal, meanwhile, will now bid to maintain his last-gasp push for a ticket to Rio in this final tournament of the year-long Olympic qualifying race. He was the Czech flag bearer at London 2012, an honour awarded to mark him winning his 2010 battle with testicular cancer.

“I have two tattoo’s on my arm from the last two Olympic Games and I have kept a spot for Rio just in case” said Koukal after his win “I have never beaten Raul (Must) before and to do it today when I needed it most was probably the biggest win of my career in terms of outright pressure”

There was a big disappointment for men’s doubles fans when Matthias Boe was forced to withdraw from the tournament.  He had already lost his 2012 title-winning partner Carsten Mogensen, who is continuing his rehabilitation. But he had been given a wild card and a fifth seeding with an able deputy in Matthias Christiansen. His absence through injury gave England pair Matthew Nottingham and Harley Towler a walkover.

There was French disappointment with the exit of Bastian Kersaudy and Gaetan Mittelheisser as they went down to Olympic chasing Germans Michael Fuchs and Johannnes Schoettler 21-18 21-12. After a close first game, the seventh seeds dominated the contest.

Perhaps the luckiest winner of the second day was fourth seed Karen Schnaase. She needed her Hungarian opponent Laura Sarosi to lend her some shoes after the German’s pair broke. How did Schnaase repay that sporting act ... by beating her 16-21 21-14 21-18, finishing the match with a three-point burst. 

But the big question is: what are the odds on your opponent having a spare pair in your size?

Spare a thought for Ireland’s Joshua and Sam Magee in the men’s doubles. They held four game points in the second game of their clash with fourth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup only to lose to the Danes 21-9 30-28 after recovering from 20-17 down in the second. It took the Danes eight match points to get over the line.

There was a similar agonising story for France’s Delphine Lansac. She couldn’t quite get to the 30 point mark but won the first game 28-26 against Denmark’s third seed Line Kjaersfeldt and stood two points from victory when she recovered from 20-18 to reach 20-20 in the second.

Then came the heartbreak as the Scottish Open Grand Prix winner took the next two points to level the contest and then take control of the decider for a 21-8 victory.

This titanic duel lasted 66 minutes to join Chloe Magee’s opening win yesterday as the longest contest of the tournament  so far.

The shortest? At the moment it’s England pair Greg Mairs and Jenny Moore’s 21-4 21-5 opening win in yesterday’s mixed doubles. At 15 minutes it bettered team-mates Chris and Gabby Adcock’s quick start by one minute although the Adcocks played eight more points!

For all results from day 2 of the European Championships click HERE

To watch all the action LIVE and on demand from courts 1 & 2 click HERE

For a full photo gallery from day 2 at #EC16 click HERE

Article by William Kings. Photos Mark Phelan (LIVE)

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