Arnaud Merkle gets it over the line in round 1
Merkle delights on home court
Date: 4/12/2017 10:51 AM
Published by : Mark Phelan
Home town hero Arnaud Merkle got his singles campaign off to the perfect start in Mulhouse winning his first round men’s singles over the talented Russian Georgii Karpov. The Russian had given French number 1 Toma Junior Popov some problems in the final of the team event but in today’s individual Merkle was just too strong for the Russian starlet. 

It was the match Merkle probably didn’t want to see when the draw was conducted last month for the individual event. Karpov is without doubt one of the most promising singles players in Europe and has been beating all before him in the U15 & U17 junior ranks. 

Backed by a large and vocal home crowd Merkle got off to the perfect start racing into a 3-0 lead and powered to the first set as the Russian struggled to match the French number 2 for pace. In the second set the Russian did bring the fight to Merkle and with a 12-8 lead the match looked to be heading into a deciding set. 

Merkle stuck to his task however and the decisive break came when the match was tied at 17-17. Merkle utilising his immaculate stick smash won two consecutive points to lead 19-17 and took the match with a 21-19 win in the second. 

“This was a pressure match for me” said the Frenchman after his victory. “Georgii is a very good up and coming player and we knew his strengths from the team event where he played Toma Junior.”

Speaking of his home court and crowd Merkle was keen to win and was delighted to have a full hall cheering him on from the stands. “I could feel the support and to have all my friends and family here was a big motivation. Now I want to focus on the next round and gold is definitely on my mind” 

After her team exploits Yaelle Hoyaux avoided a potential banana skin beating England’s Abigail Holden in three games after losing the opening games 23-21. The French also pushed Leonice Huet & Margot Lambert into the second round in what proved to be an excellent day for the hosts with a 100% record. 

Andersen & Christophersen made fight for second round spot

Denmark’s Line Christophersen, the reigning European U17 champion and Irina Andersen (pictured above) were made fight tooth and nail for their second round spots in the women’s singles. The Danes, both considered genuine medal contenders come Sunday, were tested on adjoining courts by Turkey’s Aliye Demirbag and Johanna Magnusson of Sweden. 

Andersen lost the opening set to the Swede but won the second comfortably. In the third Magnusson could taste victory leading 15-10 but Andersen, and utilising all her senior experience, fought back to take the match with a deciding set 21-17 win.

Christophersen looked completely out of sorts in her opening game against the Turk. Demirbag had game point at 20-19 but squandered her opportunity as the Dane stayed in the moment and took the set 24-22. There was to be no second bite at the cherry for the Turk as Christophersen powered home in the second game 21-14 to win the match. 

In a strange twist of fate both Danes will now play each other in round two due to both being unseeded for the tournament. Such cruel things happen when you apply your trade on the senior circuit and then come back into junior competition for continental championships. 

The winner of tomorrow’s match will certainly be listed as one of the favourites for the podium come Sunday. 

In a day of very few surprises Scotland’s Holly Newall (pictured above) will feel most disappointed after being forced to retire from her singles game while leading against Petra Polanc of Slovenia. Newall sustained a freak hand injury which the tournament doctor deemed too serious for the Scot to continue, a hard blow for Newall who was an outside seed in the women’s singles. 

To revisit all the action from today’s play on demand via our YouTube channel chick HERE

For all results from day 2 of the individual competition at #EJC17 click HERE

TO view our photo gallery from both opening days from Mulhouse click HERE

Article by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe. Images Mark & Ben Phelan (Live in Mulhouse) 

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