April

Gilmour safely through but Dunn and Hall bow out in thriller

Kirsty Gilmour got her campaign for a first European Championship gold medal off to a perfect start in Spain as she moved into the third round of the women’s singles.

The second seed – who has finished as runner-up to Carolina Marin in each of the past two European Championships – was given a first-round bye before overcoming last year’s bronze medallist Mette Poulsen of Denmark 21-18 21-17 in 48 minutes  in round two on Wednesday.

The Scot, who had won all of her previous encounters with the Dane, the most recent of which came in 2015, will next face Gayle Mahulette of the Netherlands on Thursday as she looks to stay on track for a third consecutive meeting with top-seeded Marin in the European final.

Afterwards, she was understandably happy with the result, as well as her performance: “I went into tonight's match knowing that it would be tough. Mette is feisty and always fights for everything.

“Saying that, I was happy with how I played my game. I got in a good place mentally which I think will be one of the most important things for this tournament after the Commonwealth Games.

“I'm happy to be on court and feeling good.”

Gilmour got off to a strong start in Huelva, winning four of the match’s first five points, although there was little to choose between the shuttlers for the rest of the opening game.

However, the Scot won two points on the spin at 14-14 to establish a narrow advantage that she never surrendered, eventually sealing the opener 21-18.

The second game saw Poulsen race into a healthy 12-8 lead but Gilmour reeled off six consecutive points to fight her way back.

Although she again trailed 16-15, a run of four straight points enabled the two-time Commonwealth Games medallist to move to the verge of victory and she duly wrapped up the hard-fought win 21-17.

However, there was disappointment for Alexander Dunn and Adam Hall in the men’s doubles as they lost a first-round epic to Jelle Maas and Robin Tabeling – going down 29-27 in the decider.

The Scottish duo had valiantly levelled proceedings after falling a game behind but their Dutch opponents finally converted their fifth match point to gruellingly triumph 21-16 19-21 29-27 in 65 minutes.

There was little to choose between the pairs in the opening game as they were locked at 11-11 before Maas and Tabeling reeled off seven points on the spin to take control and got over the line shortly after.

However, Dunn and Hall responded in style, battling their way to a 10-7 and then a 12-9 lead in the second game.

A run of four consecutive points from the Dutch pair turned the tables somewhat but the Scots stayed neck and neck to move to 19-19 before claiming the back-to-back points they needed to edge home 21-19 and send the match into a decider.

They continued that momentum in that third and final game, as a run of four straight points put them within three of victory and in total control at 18-13.

However, Maas and Tabeling responded with a streak of four of their own to narrow the deficit and after both duos squandered four match points apiece, the Dutchmen battled to three consecutive points from 27-26 behind to win the marathon decider 29-27.

And while there was frustration at coming up so agonisingly short, Hall insists he and Dunn are proud of how they battled and are in good shape heading into the future.

“We're obviously disappointed not to win today, especially having been leading 18-13 in the third,” said Hall. “But there are plenty of positives for us after a very high-quality match.

“Robin and Jelle have been one of the most consistent pairs in Europe this season so for us to be very close to beating them is really going to give us some confidence going into a long training block this summer.”

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