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British badminton pair win comfortably to break Asian dominance

Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair continued their perfect start to this Commonwealth Games year by claiming the German Open title in Munheim yesterday.

They did it in style, too. The unseeded Scots could not have been more deserving of their win having knocked out the top seeds - England's Chris and Gabby Adcock - in the second round before brushing aside Sung Hyun Ko and Ha Na Kim - the No.3 seeds who are ranked 11th in the world - in the final. Bankier and Blair were the first players on court from outside Asia in what was the fourth of five finals and the Koreans were the fourth pair they had beaten from the sport's dominant region, having previously overcome Indonesian, Singaporean and Thai opponents, as well as the Adocks who are the top-ranked pair in the Commonwealth.

Indian Arvind Bhat's subsequent hard fought 24-22, 19-21, 21-11 victory over Denmark's Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in the men's singles final meant the Scots were the only European winners, yet the mixed doubles final was the most one-sided of the five.

The outcome was rarely in doubt as they claimed the opening game by a comfortable 21-15 margin before opening up 6-0 and 7-1 leads early in the second and while they did allow the Koreans to close the gap and even trailed briefly at 11-12, they won four points in succession at that stage and were never again behind.

With Blair astutely manoeuvring their opponents around the court, a net kill and a deft drop shot from Bankier earned them three match points and while she netted on the first of those, her cleverly weighted cross-court winner ended the final rally to round off a significant win.

Again unseeded, they now head into one of the year's most prestigious tournaments at the All England Championships - featuring all of the world's top leading duos - where the Scots face another Korean pair - Baek Choel Shin and Hye Won Eom - in the opening round in Birmingham for the likely chance to play the world's top partnership of Nan Zhang and Yunlei Zhao in the second round. However, they can do so packed with confidence, unbeaten this year having also won the Swedish Masters and Scottish National Championships on their only previous tournament appearances.

The pair have now won a total of seven tournaments in the past 12 months since resuming their partnership after a four-year gap, having also claimed victories at the French International, the Bulgarian International, the Kharkov International and the Scottish Grand Prix last year.

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