If the Saina Nehwal-led Awadhe Warriors needed more motivation to avenge their 1-2 opening match defeat to the Mumbai Rockets, it cannot be better than this. With just one win, they will get a chance to vie with the Delhi Acers for the Premier Badminton League (PBL) crown.
Saina could not lead her team the last time around and it is highly expected that she will be there to see her team through in this second semi-final at Hyderabad. Can the local girl’s presence boost the spirits of the former table-toppers and push them into the summit clash?
We take a look at how the tie might pan out:
Men’s singles: Tanongsak S (AW) vs HS Prannoy (MR) (probable)
HS Prannoy and Tanongsak S’s showdown was the match of the day when Mumbai and Awadhe crossed swords in the league stage. It was a nail-biting thriller that had everybody on tenterhooks and the 33rd ranked Tanongsak held his nerves in the end to outlast his 20th ranked opponent 15-12, 14-15, 15-14.
Quite naturally, this is a tough match to predict. The fact that they have never met on the Tour adds more to the intrigue factor. Having said that, HS Prannoy won two more PBL matches after that while the Thai shuttler could secure only one more victory. Can that put the Mumbai player in a better position in this clash?
Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal (AW) vs Han Li (MR) (probable)
When a team has someone as accomplished as the World No. 2 and Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, they should feel very confident. It thus goes without saying that the Awadhe Warriors should have the edge in this contest.
The last time that the Warriors and Rockets met, Saina could not take part as she needed more time to rest because of her niggling injuries. And that proved to be a disaster for the Lucknow team. It is expected that Saina will don her playing shoes, this time to put Awadhe in command. Saina’s break from the league might make her a bit rusty and she needs to be cautious as Han Li has been a superb fighter at the PBL.
There’s every chance that Saina’s presence will encourage the Warriors to go for this one as their ‘Trump Match’.
Men’s singles: Sai Praneeth (AW) vs RMV Gurusaidutt (MR) (probable)
This promises to be another exciting encounter. Sai Praneeth and Gurusaidutt put up a determined show in the PBL opener in which the Mumbai shuttler emerged victorious 14-15, 15-10, 15-8. It is simply hard to separate between these two marquee Indian players who are tied at 1-1 in their career head-to-head record.
However, if one looks at the rest of their PBL league matches, interestingly it is Sai Praneeth who had more number of wins as well as the bigger victories. Sai played an outstanding match to upend the 17th ranked Rajiv Ouseph – a player ranked 17 spots above him.
Can that propel him to right the wrongs this time?
Men’s doubles: Cai Yun/Bodin Issara (AW) vs Mathias Boe/Vladimir Ivanov (MR) (probable)
This will be the match to watch! When two of the most in-form men’s doubles pairs clash, it cannot be anything other than a thriller. The Rockets reigned supreme in their league showdown but Bodin Issara did not play in that match.
The Thai player has been an asset since then and has surged to a flawless three wins alongside the Olympic champion Cai Yun. His presence can very much be a deciding factor in this contest.Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov too have been equally impressive throughout the PBL, having pocketed nerves will emerge triumphant.
Will the Rockets bank on the superb form of their men’s doubles pair to call this their ‘Trump Match’?
Mixed doubles: Bodin Issara/Christinna Pedersen (AW) vs Vladimir Ivanov/Kamilla Juhl (MR) (probable)
Two former World No. 1 Danish players – Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Juhl – square off in this match which sure makes for an exciting prospect. Being from the same country, they are obviously well acquainted with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That very well showed in their league showdown which turned out to be an epic. It went in favour of the Awadhe team by a close 15-9, 14-15, 15-14 scoreline.
Could the Warriors repeat that act? There is no place for complacency here as the Mumbai pair has won a handful of matches since then and would not bow down easily.
Note: The singles and doubles match-ups are as per our assumptions for the most obvious player combinations. They are subject to change if one or more of the players are unavailable from either team or if the team managements decide to change the combinations based on current form.