English badminton’s national champions Ben Lane and Jess Pugh clearly find something magical in the Madrid air.
Three years ago, the young English pair, fresh from winning U19 European Junior bronze, landed the Spanish International title; the third of their fledging senior career at International Challenger level.
Roll forward to 2019 and, after a title barron 36 months for English badminton in the Spanish capital, the now English national champions repeated the trick, this time as top seeds, to secure their sixth title together on the European circuit.
Saturday’s 21-13, 24-26, 21-18 win in the mixed doubles final over Denmark’s Mathias Bay-Smidt and Rikke Soby Hansen was excellent demonstration of their good form that has seen them run up the world rankings to 28..
After a Friday night semi final beating of the dangerous Russian third seeds, Saturday’s final – a career first meeting with Denmark’s reigning Swiss Open champions – was a tense affair with game points traded in a nervy second game in which the English held, but missed out on converting, three Championship points.
The deciding third end was just as nervy but with Pugh impressing at the net, the English pair maintained good momentum and a noticeable change in pace to secure their second title of 2019 after winning in Poland seven weeks ago.
It was a win that netted England a 15th Spanish International title in the 45 year history of the International Challenger event,
England had opportunity to add to that record earlier on Finals Day but Toby Penty lost out in straight sets to 18 year old Thai sensation and reigning world junior champion in the men’s singles final.
Like Lane and Pugh, Penty has enjoyed an impressive week in Spain marking strong form with big wins over French number one Brice Leverdez and Germany’s Kai Schaefer, who defeated Rajiv Ouseph in February’s European Mixed Team Championships.
For Penty, it was a first finals day defeat in six on the European circuit and he will be buoyed going into the European Games as Team GB’s leading singles man later this month.