(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
There is no place like home
Date: 3/31/2022 10:24 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
The Orléans Masters kicks off its tenth edition to close a busy month that has seen the return of all the big events, and this might be a great chance for the host country’s players to get themselves on the podium. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is.

In two consecutive editions, France has taken at least one title. It was Thom Gicquel/ Delphine Delrue in the mixed doubles in 2019 and Toma Junior Popov last year in the men’s singles. This year, France is stacked in many categories and is eyeing up a potential big statement on their home court.

The show is already on with the spotlight moving from Basel, Switzerland, to Orléans, France. Today the fight is one to reach the quarterfinals.

Men’s singles
With the French number one, Brice Leverdez, who struggled with an injury during the All England Open, pulling out of the tournament, it was down to the new guard. Reigning champion Toma Junior Popov joined his brother Christo Popov and Arnaud Merkle as the three in-form young talents who aim to threaten the podium this week. 

All three are safely into round three, just one more win from the final eight. 

Christo Popov took almost an hour to get past Malaysian Yeoh Seng Zoe in three games, before holding strong against the steady Dane, Ditlev Jæger Holm. He will now play the number one seed, Sai Praneeth. The two played at the Indonesia Open last year – it was 21-19 in the third to Praneeth, so we may be in for another showstopper.

In the opening round, fourth seed Toma Junior Popov benefited from a bye but efficiently dispatched Germany’s Fabian Roth, 21-8, 21-11 yesterday. He now faces Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo. In their only encounter at the Spain Masters last year, the Frenchman won in two games.

With a tricky opener, Arnaud Merkle battled hard against India’s Siril Verma, a familiar opponent from matches in Wales and Scotland. Although a closer match this time, Merkle kept his clean win record. He then went on to impressively send Sweden’s Felix Burestedt packing, 21-12, 21-9. Merkle will now face Brazil’s seventh-seeded Ygor Coelho and will again try and keep his perfect head-to-head record.

Women’s singles
The seventh seed, Qi Xuefei, displayed a welcome return to winning ways at the Swiss Open and completed tough matches after struggling with injuries of late. Despite completing another match, the result did not go her way with a loss against India’s Ira Sharma.

Marie Batomene, unfortunately, had to withdraw mid-match against Iris Wang, which meant that Leanice Huet was left alone flying the French tricolour in the category. With a strong win against Turkey’s Aliye Demirbag, 21-9, 21-17, she will now take on India’s Anupama Upadhyaya. 

Men’s doubles
The Popov brothers have led the way for France and came to Orleans as second seeds. However, a difficult draw resulted in a marathon opening match against Malaysia’s Junaidi Arif/ Muhammad Haikal. After a 72-minute slog, the brothers narrowly lost out 21-19 in the third game. 

However, France flexed their strength in depth with three big wins in men’s doubles. 

The most experienced heads, Lucas Corvee/ Ronan Labar found a way to come back from a game down to eventually defeat the fifth seeds, Callum Hemming/ Steven Stallwood, 30-28 in the decider – a rare sight on the scoresheet. They now take on another English pair in Rory Easton/ Zach Russ. 

Fourth seeds, Fabien Delrue/ William Villeger defeated Danes Kristian Kræmer/ Marcus Rindshøj 21-18, 21-19, and now have the prospect of Malaysians Yee Jun Chang/ Roy King Yap, Polish Open 2021 finalists. 

Eloi Adam/ Julien Maio needed three against a resilient Indian pair of Arun George/ Sanyam Shukla, and now meet the rising pair from Denmark, Emil Lauritzen/ Mads Vestergaard, Ukraine Open finalists this year.

Women’s doubles
The bright light in the category for France was the three-game win for the young duo of Flavie Vallet/ Emilie Vercelot, after swiftly losing the opening game, their response was strong, winning 12-21, 21-19, 21-19 against Natasja P. Anthonisen/ Clara Graversen. 

Margot Lambert/ Anne Tran narrowly lost out to fourth seeds, Julie Macpherson/ Ciara Torrance, 21-19, 21-17. 

Mixed doubles
With the absence of the 2019 champions, Gicquel/ Delrue, all eyes were on William Villeger/ Anne Tran. The new combination almost took out the eighth seeds from Singapore and India Open champions, Hee Yong Kai Terry/ Tan Wei Han, agonisingly losing out 21-18, 14-21, 19-21. 

Fabien Delrue/ Vimala Heriau received a walkover in the first round and will today play Scotland’s Christopher Grimley/ Eleanor O'Donnell. 

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