Yonex Belgian International 2019: qualifiers

Tradition has it that on the first Wednesday of YBI hard-fought battles take place to get the last much coveted tickets for the main table… Below we give a short overview of the most striking results and performances, with obviously a lot of attention for the achievements of the Belgian top players. Like all of you, we were very curious to see how much progress some of our players have made of late…  Game on!

Men’s singles

Two gentlemen we love watching are top talents Julien Carraggi and Elias Bracke (who always plays a home game in Leuven). After a bye in the first round, Elias confronted the solid Turk Calisir. In the first game, the Turkish player had no answer whatsoever against Elias’ extremely high pace. In the second game, our wonder boy relaxed the pace somewhat, and that allowed the young Turk to fight back. At one moment, Elias was even 15-19 behind, but then managed to straighten his back again. Our upcoming champion demonstrated much character thanks to a series of impressive smashes, and managed to finish the match in straight games after all. However, in the third and last round of the qualifiers third seed Rusev from Bulgaria proved to be a wee bit too strong. Pity, but there is hope for the future.

Julien Carraggi also fought his way to the final game of the qualifiers. In the first round, Carraggi got rid of the Estonian Laani in straight games. In the second round a more solid opponent awaited Julien: Sören Hald. The Danish player had beaten Marijn Put in the first round, one of the strongest players of the Belgian elite. During the first game, Julien initially stayed level with the Dane (the score was 11-10 for our countryman at the interval), but strong Sören managed to win the first game 21-15. What followed was a perfect sample of determination as well as solid and tactically astute badminton. The Dane no longer knew how to deal with Julien’s varying strokes … A really memorable victory for his home crowd!

In the final round, Julien had to play yet another Dane, Jonas Jaeger, who had already played a long three game match earlier on, just like Julien. One would expect the very last match on Wednesday to produce some suspense, but Carraggi demonstrated a lot of cool. Initially the first game was very level, but Julien managed to create a gap at the right moment: 21-17 was the result. Victory in the qualifiers now seemed imminent, and that gave Julien wings: in no time he managed to get a head start in the second game, and he did not look back for a second. After less than half an hour, he knocked out the Dane completely ! Congratulations Julien, badminton-loving Belgium is proud of you!

The other Belgians scored a few striking victories as well. Jurgen Voet for example easily beat Zbinden from Switzerland in the first round. Then followed an exciting match against Seiwald from Austria. As regards technique, Voet certainly managed to keep up with Seiwald in the first game and had his chances, but in the end he went to the wall against this Ivan Drago lookalike (who made it to the main table at the end of the day). Sander De Decker also demonstrated good quality in his first round match against Oliver Schmidt: a clear win on an impressive score. In the second round, De Decker also showed flashes of class, but in the end 8th seed Schaendler proved to be too strong.

The remaining Belgians (Claeyé, Put, Houthoofd, Slegers, Lekens, Dewit, Bronselaer and Rosius) were all eliminated in round one. But then, the quality of the opponents was very high… Bronselaer for example was confronted right away with Christo Popov, who very easily made it to the main table. Here is a name to remember, so much class (and barely 17 years old !).  

Ladies’ singles

In the women’s singles, Belgium’s number one Lianne Tan is obviously already on the main table. Presence Beelen, Ine Van Wouwe and Luisa Pagliara Pity (just back from the U17 European championships) also tried their luck. Beelen lost narrowly against Fankhauser from Switzerland, and Van Wouwe unfortunately was beaten by Van Buiten from the Netherlands (not to be confused with our elite player Van Buyten from Leuven). Pagliara also suffered defeat against Cloteaux-Foucault from France. During the first game in particular young Luisa managed to keep up with her French opponent.  Our last survivor Clara Lassaux got an opportunity for revenge against Cloteaux-Foucault and a place on the main table. The first two games were neatly divided between the two ladies. However, and to the disappointment of the crowd in Sportoase, the French player in the end proved to be the killer of the Belgian badminton ladies and managed to win the third game 21-17. What a pity… It was so close…

Men’s doubles

After the nice performance they put up last year, everybody had high expectations for the duo Stijn Lenaerts-Lawrence De Pauw. The suspense in their first round centered around the question whether their opponents Zolobe-Zolobe from Ivory Coast would show up in Leuven. They did, but the W&L boys literally minced their opponents during the match. In the play-offs of the qualifiers De Pauw and Lenaerts put up a very good fight against Van der Aar and Duys from the Netherlands, but in the end the verdict had a very bitter aftertaste: defeat after two very close games …

Fellow club members Floris Oleffe and Maarten Lenaerts fared less well. The draw linked them to the extremely talented Christo Popov, flanked by Kenji Lovang. The first game could have gone either way, but was lost 21-18 in the end. In the second game the French more emphatically distanced their opponents. This very solid duo later managed very easily to reach the main table.

Hebad members Marijn Put and Dylan Rosius demonstrated a lot of engagement during their doubles match against Li-Veenstra from Holland. The duo from Limburg all but butchered the Dutch. Marijn and Dylan could hence fight for a place on the main table. The Belgian hopes were crushed however by a French duo (nothing new under the sun !)… Adam and Maio proved to be a wee bit too strong. Final score: twice 21-10 …

Women’s doubles

No Belgian participants in the women’s doubles unfortunately. Pity, as a few matches at this level are a very valuable experience. In the end, the Indian duo Bhat-Gautam had to go to great lengths to reach the main table. They beat the French couple Cloteaux-Foucault/Lamoulie in two straight games. Dutch Brehler-Kuiper got their ticket for the first round entirely for free after a walkover.

Mixed doubles

Alas, no home players either in the qualifiers for the mixed doubles competition (Jaques-Van Nieuwkerke received a wildcard from the organisers). In the end the four tickets went to a German duo (Geiss/Moszczynski), a Dutch combo (Van Der Lecq/Jille), a Danish duo (Espersen-Grundtvig) and an Estonian duo (Laanes/Rüütel).

At times we enjoyed a lot of excitement in our home base, but the temperature in our Leuven Arena can only rise further when the big boys and girls enter the competition today. Hope you are all as ready as I am ! Try not to miss out on the fun ….

See you tomorrow…

Helger Van Werde