2016 Premier Badminton League: Can Chennai topple the confident Acers?
The last time the Delhi Acers and the Chennai Smashers locked horns at the 2016 Premier Badminton League (PBL), it was the Smashers who edged past the Acers 4-3. However, the scenario has changed completely since then as the Delhi team did not lose a single more match and finished the round robin stage on top of the table.
As the two teams clash in the first semi-final at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, it is the Acers who should be considered the favourites especially after their fantastic 5-0 thrashing of the Mumbai Rockets in their last round robin match.
Can the Smashers end the winning streak of the Acers or will the table-toppers continue their dominant run? We analyse:
Men’s singles: Tommy Sugiarto (DA) vs Brice Leverdez (CS) (probable)
World No. 11 Tommy Sugiarto has simply been sensational throughout the PBL. He is unbeaten so far and has four wins against his name, one of which includes an upset victory over the former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
Needless to say, the Indonesian Masters champion presents a stiff challenge for any of his rivals. He should be brimming with confidence going into this tie. The last time the Delhi Acers and the Chennai Smashers met, the Indonesian breezed past the 36th ranked Brice Leverdez 15-4, 15-11. Sugiarto has been the most valuable player for the Delhi franchise and would definitely look to put the Acers in command.
Just like the league stage, the Acers might contemplate choosing this one as their ‘Trump Match’.
Women’s singles: PC Thulasi (DA) vs PV Sindhu (CS) (probable)
The balance tilts in favour of the Chennai Smashers in women’s singles without a doubt. The young Chennai skipper PV Sindhu has led from the front and has registered a flawless five wins. One of those triumphs was achieved over the Delhi Acers’ PC Thulasi. The double World Championships bronze medallist was stupendous in that match and carved out a 15-5, 15-4 win, losing a total of just nine points.
The World No. 12 would surely be gunning for an encore of that performance in this semi-final tie.
Having said that, Thulasi is coming after an impressive comeback victory over Mumbai Rockets’ Gadde Ruthvika Shivani and would be keen to do better than last time.
Men’s singles: Ajay Jayaram (DA) vs Simon Santoso (CS) (probable)
When Delhi and Chennai teams crossed swords in the round robin stage, the 21st ranked Ajay Jayaram made a complete mockery of his 0-4 head-to-head record over Indonesia’s Simon Santoso. The Dutch Open champion brought forth his aggression and thrashed the former third-ranked player 15-6, 15-9.
Even though he did beat the Indonesian comfortably, Jayaram cannot take him lightly. Santoso does have two easy wins at this PBL and that should put the Delhi shuttler on the guard.
Interestingly, both these players were rested by their respective teams in their last league matches and thus both of them would be raring to go after the break. That can make this clash quite competitive.
Men’s doubles: Koon Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong (DA) vs Chris Adcock/Pranaav Jerry Chopra (CS) (probable)
The two teams had contrasting fortunes in their last league matches. The Delhi pair of Koon Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong held their nerves well to stun the formidable Mumbai duo of Mathias Boe/Vladimir Ivanov. It was an effort that should be a fillip for the Acers coming into the semi-finals.
On the other hand, the Chennai combine of Chris Adcock/Pranaav Jerry Chopra had a forgettable time on the court against the Bengaluru Topguns. They slumped to a straight-game defeat and that is definitely not something to be desired ahead of such an important match.
Mixed doubles: Koon Kiet Keat/Gabrielle Adcock (DA) vs Chris Adcock/Pia Zebadiah (CS) (probable)
Unlike his inconsistent performances in men’s doubles, the World No. 7 Chris Adcock has been rock-solid in mixed doubles – his specialized format. Alongside Pia Zebadiah of Indonesia, the English star has notched up four wins out of five ties and the duo should be the favoured team in any match.
However, this match is expected to be tough as he is likely to face his regular mixed doubles partner, Gabrielle Adcock from the Delhi team. Their round robin encounter turned out to be a nail-biting thriller in which the Smashers prevailed 14-15, 15-14, 15-14.
Get ready for another such engrossing showdown which also has a high possibility of being Chennai’s ‘Trump Match’.
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.