The opening rounds of this knockout tournament have all been done and dusted this week
By Katie Garner
As well as the overflowing abundance of entertaining league games that pepper our badminton season, it’s nice to kick things up a notch with the occasional tournament to get the competitive juices pumping. The annual Challenge Cup provides a great opportunity for clubs of all abilities to really get stuck in and test themselves as we all attempt to knock the opposing club out of the battle for the top spot.
This year, the first round quarter final matches were all due to be played in the last week of January, so this evening, we headed down to the home to Redbridge to draw our battle lines. We have a handicap of +10 while Redbridge have a +2 handicap meaning that the games all started at 0-9 to us. With ladies, mixed and men’s matches all on the agenda, it was set up to be an exciting night…as long as we could avoid the custard creams until after we’d played…
- Jess and Katie: 17-21 / 21-14 / 21-20 (Wychelm)
- Janet and Barry: 17-21 / 17-21 (Redbridge)
- Stuart B and Gary: 21-14 / 21-4 (Wychelm)
- Katie and Janet: 21-15 / 19-21 / 21-8 (Wychelm)
- Jess and Gary: 21-18 / 21-7 (Wychelm)
- Barry and Stuart B: 17-21 / 21-14 / 16-21 (Redbridge)
- Jess and Janet: 16-21 / 18-21 (Redbridge)
- Katie and Stuart B: 21-10 / 21-19 (Wychelm)
- Barry and Gary: 21-11 / 17-21 / 19-21 (Redbridge)
Total: 5 Wychelm wins to 4 Redbridge wins
Just to clarify – yes we did win! We’ve faced off against the imposing Redbridge on numerous occasions now, mainly in Division One of the mixed doubles last season, as well as in previous Challenge Cups, but we have never been able to pull off an overall win. This makes tonight a very special and memorable night for all the right reasons! This means that we are now through to the next round, which is due to be played on the week commencing 24th March, although who we are to face, I have no idea as of yet.
Ladies doubles with Jess:
My first match of the night was a ladies doubles game with my partner in crime Jess. Between the warm up and actually starting the match, she managed to break a string on her racket, causing serious panic as the squad rummaged around to produce something suitable for our lovely leftie. Luckily Barry’s spare racket did the trick and we were all set up to make a start. Although a tad rusty at our ladies play, I really feel we came into our own and were able to turn defensive play into an attack. Redbridge have some excellent players, so they don’t always anticipate the return of their smashes and tram line shots, so with elastic like limbs I attempted to run and stretch as much as I could to return as many of these pesky shots as possible. Some smashes I even surprised myself by returning! One consistent theme I saw in the Redbridge play was to use the court boundaries to push you side to side – they used this much more than getting you to run forward and back, but then this was probably due to the fact that we adopted a front and back position.
I was definitely thrown about a bit and my backhand clears weren’t always as strong as I would have liked, but I feel our court rotation was really good and our interceptive play paid off. When we won I turned to look at Jess who gave me the most confused look before tentatively asking whether we had won, raising a quizzical eyebrow. A surprising success but I am really pleased with the team work we showed here as well as a developing strength at the back of the court to correspond with our powerful net play.
Ladies doubles with Janet:
Janet and I have been tackling the ladies pairs matches in Division One, so although I wasn’t entirely sure how we would fare in general, I knew we were going to have a good hash of it. Again Redbridge were constantly pushing and moving us around the court full throttle as we lunged and flung ourselves into the furthest reaches of the court to return their well places smashes and clears. We went for an attacking front and back formation which has always worked well for us and did so again here. They definitely focused more on the back player, so interception at the net was important.
I feel my straight down the line clears and drives improved over the course of the matches and I was beginning to feel more and more rubbery as I desperately stumbled for every point. Luckily for me, I was also feeling strong and as a team, we were more than ready to give it our best. Both Janet and I outran Redbridge in this one I think, again defensively picking up smashes and returning them to twist the rally to our advantage. After nearly a whole season of playing ladies together, this was our first competitive win together, so it really proves that practice makes perfect, as again our team work was on point and we knew our style well enough know to get on with trying to win the points.
Mixed doubles with Stuart B:
Reuniting the dream team for match nights is always a pleasure, and with two wins under my belt, I was keeping everything crossed for a clean sweep. With our tactics down pat, and my vocal cords fully warmed up over the course of the evening, I’m pretty sure my yelps of “You!” and “GO GO GO!” could be heard back in Romford. We stuck to our traditional game plan, utilising my short serve to encourage the lift, with Stuart’s super smash ready and waiting to kill anything even vaguely in sight. Redbridge used a mix of front and back as well as sides play so at times, they were pushing Stuart around the back of court and I couldn’t really get stuck in, but on the whole, I was once again squatting and springing up with some surprise interceptive attacks as well as the usual manic ‘must recover the shuttle from the outer regions of the court’ scenario.
The only game of mine to be done in two games instead of heading for a decider, so this was a lovely way to end the evening. Redbridge were superb as always, and the handicap definitely did its job of making the matches fairer.
What I felt really made a difference in my matches in particular tonight, was the team work. Jess and Janet are my two ladies doubles partners and Stuart has been my mixed doubles partner since the beginning of Katie Wychelm Time. Being able to develop and grow this bond and team work is essential to winning in my mind as you then both know what you need to do, what your winning formulas and combinations are and what is expected of you. Having plenty of experience with all of my partners for the evening was actually a real help as I didn’t have to worry about my tactics being off or altered. This is why we usually play our Mixed Team in the Challenge Cup as we always want to make the most of the partnerships that we have created and nourished.
Another thing that came into action was our mind set. Having been defeated by Redbridge so many times in the past, I’ll admit I didn’t really have any high hopes coming into these games. I thought the handicap may even the odds, but I appreciate what an accomplished and polished side they are in general. Completely taking the pressure to win off was actually rather liberating and probably enabled me to play better than if I had been in full on competitive haze mode. We were just aiming for as many points as possible, so to hit 21 so many times was absolutely fantastic!
On reflection, the handicap worked in our favour. It made beating an excellent team such as Redbridge accessible and gave the games that element of challenge. The score lines for the games were still close in many instances, and Redbridge still won a fair few of the games, so it was by no means a white wash in any respect. I was never certain of defeat or victory in any of the games, as the handicap also means that the points could swing any way, at any point.
As I have already mentioned, the next round is due to be played the week of my birthday (commencing 24th March), and we will be playing either Hunters or Emerson Eagles 2 depending on who wins their match. Emerson Eagles 2 have a handicap of +12 while Hunters have +4. It will be a home match, so at least we can enforce the use of plastic shuttles if we want to!
Thanks to everyone who played in tonight’s match – I’m really proud of the way we all pulled together so a big thank you from me for all of your hard work.