Buoyed by their success in Durham the previous weekend, Emily Harrison and Ashraf Alam skipped a day’s school to compete in the U19 Nationals in Milton Keynes.
Emily was unlucky to draw the 1st seed in her first round singles match, but put in a very robust performance.
After a very good win against Jai Chandarana in his first round match, Ashraf safely negotiated easier opposition in the second round to progress to the last sixteen. There he faced all six feet something of Leon Griffiths, and spent much of the first end figuring out how to adapt his game. The second end was close all the way, but Leon just took it 21-19.
Saturday saw them back for level and mixed doubles. Playing with Beth Speechley, Emily won a good first round match before again hitting a seeded pair in round two. Ashraf was playing with Nicolas Pipe for the very first time, and only got into the event when another pair withdrew. Unsurprisingly, they spent some of their first match figuring out how to mesh their styles, but it was really beginning to click by the time they faced Luke Bailey and Brandon Yap in the last sixteen. They lost a close first end, but took the second and ran away with the third to reach the quarter finals. Unsurprisingly, they faced a seeded pair there, but again developed significantly through the match, losing the first end by quite a margin, but the second only 20-22.
Emily and Ashraf paired up for the mixed doubles, facing Brandon Yap and Kiara Henry in the first round. Brandon was clearly not pleased to meet Ashraf again, and indeed Emily and Ashraf bossed him and his England team partner off the court. Unfortunately though, fifteen ends of highly competitive badminton over two days was taking its toll on Ashraf, and Emily and Ashraf went down to William Jones (who had played just six ends) and Asmita Chaudhari in the last sixteen knowing that with fresher legs the score would likely have been reversed.
Nevertheless, with both Ashraf and Emily having another year in this age group, there was much to be encouraged about.
A huge thank you to Rob (& Alison) for giving up their weekend to offer invaluable support and coaching to Ashraf, Emily and their partners (… and to Elizabeth for a lovely full report).