The Adcocks

The most prestigious badminton tournament in the world has been missing something since 2005: an English winner of a final.  The All England title is the Special One, the one that every elite player covets – in Mixed Doubles can Gabby and Chris Adcock make it to the podium in 2020 and confirm their place amongst the legends of the sport?

Screenshot from BWF TV.

Through the years this sector has seen some iconic winners, not least the hattrick of victories by the Indonesian pair Lilyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad between 2012-2014, however we have to go back to 2005 to find the last English triumph.  Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson’s 3 set win over the Danish duo of Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl was a red-letter day for home fans.  They were a tough couple who just refused to be beaten on their native soil.  They narrowly failed to defend their title the following year, and in 2007 Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg got to the final but came away with the silver medal.  So now we look to the Adcocks to see if they can seize the chance to get Gold in Birmingham.

Gabby and Chris are a partnership that was always meant to be.  As children they used to play badminton together, but as they got older, they were paired up with other people.  The London 2012 Olympics came and went with not too much to remark upon. However, when they rekindled their partnership on and off court a sequence of competitive success began.  They married in 2013 and one of their first major titles was Commonwealth Gold in 2014, successfully retained in 2018. Amongst their other achievements have been Gold at the BWF Superseries season ending event in Dubai 2015 (the only Brits before or since) and World Championship bronze in 2017, not to mention the 2017/2018 European titles.

Embed from Getty Images

Gabby Adcock is a great XD partner.  It’s noticeable that in the last couple of decades our expectations of a woman’s role in XD have evolved.  There is more equality of responsibility and although traditional positions and movement are still fundamental there is a new flexibility in approach; Natsir has been a very progressive influence on this. Gabby has the ability to perform well within this tactical framework and in an evenly balanced game the woman player’s skills will have a big impact. It should go without saying that she is a great player at the net, with sharp kills she brings a fearless intensity to the position.  As she is mostly playing at the front she is always alert to strategic possibilities.  It’s crucial that she will make interceptions, her fast feet and good spatial awareness help her to control the tempo of the game and this can be a valuable platform for Chris’s aggression.  The ferocity in the team does not just come from him though; she has a great smash and the strength to repel attack if she finds herself in the rear court.

Chris Adcock is one of the best XD men players in the world.  He likes to maintain the offensive focus and is skilful at supporting Gabby’s position.  He likes to compress the space by moving forward a little in midcourt to keep the pressure on the opposition; it means that gaps for rivals to score in are harder to find. He has a powerful smash so any attempt to hit over him has to be very accurate.   He has been a successful MD player in the early years of his career and this has given him plenty of confidence to step up to the net if necessary, he’ll execute nice blocks with flat pushes over the net and he’s good at finding openings to exploit.  They work well together to engineer winning chances. 2019 in review has to go down as a patchy year; uneven results stemmed from persistent injury niggles including very painful toe joint problems for Gabby.  Their best ever world ranking – #4 – came in 2017.  Now, two years later they have slipped out of the top 10.  The consequences of injuries are broad because they disrupt both partners training programmes as well as tournament performance.  The value of ranking positions is that it affects whether athletes are seeded for competitions, if they are unseeded it means that they will probably have to play strong pairs early on.   

2020 has some wonderful opportunities on the horizon for this duo.  Once again, they are playing in the Indian PBL with the Pune Aces. There are undoubted benefits to a fresh approach, new training partners and a lively fan base. Take a look at this quote from Chris

“The biggest thing to happen this year is to have a quality player like Hendra Setiawan in your team. You can train with him, you can learn from him. We (he and his wife and mixed doubles partner Gabrielle) are obviously very experienced players but Hendra is obviously in a different world and amazing to watch,”

Adcock, England!
Screenshot from BWF TV

In the past there have been some nerve tingling games in Birmingham involving the Adcocks.  After losing in the semi-final in 2016, the following year they found themselves playing for a shot at the title again against LIU Kai and HUANG Yaqiong from China.  They each won a set, and Chris served for the match in the third with the score at 20-19. This was the moment that he has described as “the worst string break of all time”.  In that instant the game turned as they lost the next points, the third set and the match.  It was an excruciating slice of bad luck. 

So, in March, will we see English representatives in the XD final?  There’s no doubt that Chris and Gabby have the skills and drive to do well.  I’d love to see them begin 2020 injury-free so that they can start building their competitive momentum for success at the Yonex All England; earning back their status as seeds with some good results is the first step.  The whole of the English badminton community – from village hall players to the elite – would enjoy watching them triumph in Birmingham.  If they win here, they will reinforce their status as England’s #1 XD pair and become legends in the game for all time.


A version of this post first appeared on the Yonex All England website https://www.allenglandbadminton.com/media/


If you enjoyed this then click the link to read about another England legend, Lauren Smith https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2019/08/09/lauren-smith-doubles-for-britain/ or this one about TAI Tzu Ying https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2019/12/16/tai-tzu-ying-the-queen/

©2019 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Badminton & TeamGB: 2019 European Games

England were magnificent in their Sudirman Cup games against Denmark this year. The matches were full of courage, a refusal to give in and the desire to beat their main rivals for European supremacy. England eventually won the tie 3-2 by triumphing in all the doubles disciplines and this included Chloe Birch, Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis playing in two 3 game matches each

From Instagram

England upgrades to become TeamGB for the European Games starting in Minsk on June 21st and the key difference for the badminton contingent is that the Scot, Kirsty Gilmour is a potent addition to the Women’s Singles. She is a powerful athlete: the third seed with a great chance of getting to the medal stages of the tournament. She is very energetic – not bothered about grazing her knees as she dives around – and never hesitates to give everything to defend a point. Chloe Birch is seeded 8 and will get through her group; as in the Sudirman Cup she is playing in two disciplines – unusually in modern times she competes in both singles and doubles.

video by kind permission BWF

Lauren Smith and Chloe Birch were the two players who brought it home for England against Denmark. It was a glorious game; on a knife edge throughout. If you take a look at the BWF highlights above you can see they showed immense bravery and character to clinch it – watching their relief and elation at the end was very exciting. They defeated Sara Thygesen and Maiken Fruergaard and coincidently they have drawn each other again in the group stages. It’s bound to be a spicy encounter with the Danes out for revenge but even though they are the top seeds they are the ones who should be nervous. Smith and Birch are in a winning habit this year; they have already triumphed in the Orleans Masters and the Azerbaijan International Open. The Stoeva sisters are absent because of a dispute with their national body so I see the British duo as the best Women’s Doubles pair in Europe at the moment. They are genuine contenders for gold.

From BWF TV

Toby Penty performed well against Viktor and took him to 3 games in his Sudirman Cup tie. His autoimmune condition has been in the news recently but as he has said, on court is where he can feel like himself and concentrate on the game. He’ll get through his group but after that it’s hard to predict how far he can progress. Axelsen has withdrawn owing to allergies so arguably he and Antonsen are the two top players in Minsk. Penty’s form is coming good at the right time too following his recent silver medal at the Spanish International. Men’s Doubles sees Marcus Ellis partnering Chris Langridge. These two are battle hardened campaigners: I always feel eager to watch them because I know they will give everything – remember the ‘cramp collapse’ at the end of the SC tie? They play to win and are a great partnership – a good example of two players who support each other to success.

TeamGB has the top two seeds in Mixed Doubles. Britain’s best-known shuttlers – the Adcocks – are competing as top seeds and should progress through Group A without too much fuss. the start of 2019 was a bit lukewarm, mainly due to niggly injuries but they had a pretty good tournament at the Australian Open in June, reaching the quarter finals. Always ambitious, they have the drive and courage to take this title and I assume this is part of their pathway to realise their desire for Olympic Gold in 2020.

Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis are also competing in the XD in Group B and may be asked some tough questions before they get to the knock out stages. In the Sudirman Cup they held their nerve in a tricky match. Smith is physically strong and bold so I don’t think it is easy to intimidate her at the net. The dream is for them to meet the Adcocks in the final and at that point anything could happen!

From BWF TV

It’s always a thrill to follow tournaments like this and I think TeamGB have got the talent and character to dominate in the badminton. The Sudirman Cup showed that the British players have the mental strength to step up and challenge the Danes; at this level results often turn on a refusal to give in, to chase, and just sheer hard work and we’ve proved we’ve got that. It would be a shock if significant medals went to anyone other than Denmark or GB and in this year leading up to Tokyo 2020 being in the winning habit is going to pay dividends.


©2019 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved