Both the Bulgarian and Spanish women’s teams have high hopes this week in Kazan. The Bulgarian team are looking to at least defend their bronze medal from Basel two years ago while Spain are on the hunt for an historical medal as the seeded team in group 2. Both teams faced off today in the opening match of the group and in front of the TV cameras served up a thriller with the Bulgarians coming out on top 3-2.
Spain were widely tipped to win all three singles with Marin, Corrales and Azurmendi leading the lines and the Spanish looked well on their way to achieving just that with world champion Carolina Marin taking the opener in two games against Linda Zetchiri.
Beatriz Corrales was expected to follow but veteran Petya Nedelcheva was in no mood to play second fiddle to Corrales and played some of her best badminton of recent years to level the match 1-1. Stefani Stoeva followed Nedelcheva’s lead to take the third of the singles in what was her first singles match since March 2015.
Stoeva was understandably tired but happy to give Bulgaria the upper hand heading into the doubles “It has almost been a year since I played singles but I really enjoyed it out there today and it’s a great feeling to give the team another important point”
Team Bulgaria needed just one win from the remaining two doubles matches and player of the match Petya Nedelcheva delivered alongside Gabriela Stoeva to give the 2014 bronze medallists an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Spain did rally as Corrales teamed up with Marin in the second doubles to keep their quarter final hopes alive but ultimately played second fiddle to a strong Bulgarian team today.
Estonia will be no pushovers in group two and will be secretly harbouring ideas of a quarter final themselves after destroying Belgium 5-0. With a well-rounded and balanced team, the Estonians are going to have a big say in the outcome of group 2.
Czech men continue winning habit against Irish
Team Czech Republic have had a good record against Ireland in the past. Their last meeting two years ago saw the Czech Republic send Ireland packing in the group stages. This year prove to be almost a carbon copy of that 2014 meeting with the Czech men coming through again against Ireland 3-2 leaving the Irish in an uphill struggle to make the quarters.
Germany will be favourites to win the group and the Czech Republic will be the fancied team to join them in the quarter finals from group 3 after their victory over the Irish.
Finland’s Nanna Vainio (pictured) caused one of the biggest individual upsets of the day taking down Danish number 1 Line Kjaersfeldt in the opening match of their tie. That was as good as it got for the Finns and debutant Julie Dawall Jakobsen looked at home on the senior courts with the Danes eventually romping home 4-1 in the defence of their title.
In the longest match of the day Ukraine caused a minor upset defeating fourth seeds from Turkey in group 4 of the women’s competition. There was a welcome return to international competition for Elena Prus who delivered a decisive victory in the third singles match proving there is no underestimating experience mixed with her obvious touch of class.
For all results from today’s play in Kazan click HERE
For a full Facebook photo gallery from day 1 of #EMWTC16 click HERE
To watch all the matches on demand from court 1 on Badminton Europe’s YouTube channel click HERE
Article and images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe.