YONEX All England 2023: Chloe Birch hails winning start
Preston's Birch and Lauren Smith won their opening women's doubles match in Birmingham
By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat
Preston's Chloe Birch hailed a resilient performance and a winning start to the world's oldest and most prestigious badminton tournament.
Birch tasted victory alongside women's doubles partner Lauren Smith to reach the second round at the YONEX All England Open, staged at Birmingham's Utilita Arena.
The home favourites sealed a 21-9 21-18 victory over the American pairing of Srivedya Gurazada and Ishika Jaiswal.
Birch said: "We started really strong. We lost a bit of concentration in the second set but we stamped our authority towards the end and finished it strong.
"It's great to get out in two games - you never want to go to three if you don't have to!"
In their first meeting with the world No.39 duo, the English pair's power proved too much as they leapt into an 8-3 lead and then 11-4 at the break in the first game.
They stayed on top to win the first game 21-9 but Jaiswal and Gurazada came out swinging in the second, finding a tactical approach that troubled the home favourites.
A series of close exchanges took them to 18-18, when Birch and Smith changed things up and won the final three points to wrap up victory in 35 minutes.
Smith said: "(To close it out in two games) shows good character - that's something Chloe and I pride ourselves on, being pretty tough.
"We managed to turn it around, it would have been easy to let them run away with it as they were building in confidence and we weren't executing in the way we wanted to.
"We were very clear on the plan, we were assessing what was going on and changed what we were doing towards the end. There was really good maturity from us as a pair to do that."
It was a rousing return to the All England stage for the pair, who didn't play the event together last year.
Smith eschewed the women's doubles discipline and Birch played with Jess Pugh - but the pairing that played the Tokyo Olympics together are now reunited.
They will face Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara in the second round after the Japanese pair dumped out Malaysian fifth seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan in one of the biggest shocks of opening day.
Smith said: "This one's really special. We all say it but we mean it - it's our favourite event of the year, having our home crowd.
"You look at that second game there, a lot of it was the crowd getting behind us when we needed them.
"It's a huge event in the badminton calendar, every player wants to be here and we're very proud that it's our event. We've got a lot of good memories in Birmingham so we're hopeful we can make some more this year."
Tickets for the 2023 YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships are on sale now. Click here to find out more.