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French badminton enters a new era with performance in Thomas Cup

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS): It was a new beginning in the history of French badminton when their men's team qualified for the Thomas Cup quarter-finals in their debut appearance.

Though the team lost 1-3 to Japan in the last eight clash here Thursday at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, they leave India on a high.

Considered minnows, the French were thrashed 0-5 by defending champions China in their Group D opener but came back strongly to defeat Asian powerhouse Chinese Taipei 3-2 and toppled one of the top European teams Russia 3-2 to qualify for the quarter-finals.

"It is a really great performance by us to reach the quarter-finals in our debut appearance. Of course we are a bit sad as we could have made it a bit tougher for Japan. But playing for the first time made us give out everything we had and I can't blame anyone for being tired," France's No.1 singles player Brice Leverdez told IANS.

"This is a great achievement for France and it means we are in the top-8 of the world as a men's team. The media and youngsters back home will see that we can do by reaching the highest level in the world. This is good for the future of French badminton," added the World No.31.

France's first doubles shuttler Gaetan Mittelheisser believes that this performance will create an impact for the sport in a country dominated by football.

"We are happy with our result. Badminton is starting to get popular now with the help of our federation. But it is still nowhere close to popular sports like football, handball and rugby. I hope this is a beginning of a new story," Mittelheisser told IANS.

Leverdez concurred that the performance will help create a bigger space for the sport in the minds of the French.

"We have a small place for shuttlers in France. Badminton is not that popular but it is growing with a lot more people taking up the sport. Since we never had big results, the media didn't care but this performance will make an impact for the future," said Leverdez.

The Frenchman also accomplished a new personal feat when he defeated Japan's World No.4 Kenichi Tago, his first win over a top-10 player. He gave a winning start to his team but his teammates went on to lose the next three matches to end their campaign Thursday.

"I was looking for a win over a top-10 player for a long time so I am really happy this happened. It still hasn't sunk in. Every time I had a chance to beat a top-10 player I lost but today I made it. I put in everything I had," added Leverdez.

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