2016 Premier Badminton League: Delhi Acers have the edge in the final
It was a match to forget for the Mumbai Rockets when they last squared off against the Delhi Acers in the league stage. The Acers had inflicted a thunderous 5-0 defeat on the Rockets, thus becoming the first PBL team to win a match by such a one-sided scoreline.
Form wise and head-to-head record wise, the Acers should be the one favoured in the final on Sunday. Not only are the table-toppers playing brilliantly, but they will also have some vociferous home support with the final being held in Delhi.
The Rockets, on the other hand, finished their league matches in the fourth position but had a big win over the Saina Nehwal-led Awadhe Warriors in the semis.
Now just one match separates the two teams from the PBL trophy. Could the Rockets ride on their fantastic semi-final win to the title or will the head-to-head record have the final word?
We take a look:
Men’s singles: Tommy Sugiarto (DA) vs HS Prannoy (MR) (probable)
For Mumbai Rockets’ HS Prannoy, this is an uphill task. The unbeaten Sugiarto has been the best men’s singles player at the PBL who has amassed five wins. The Indonesian Masters champion’s presence has been a big reason why the Acers have been so dominant after their initial couple of defeats.
Sugiarto’s calmness under pressure has been outstanding which was thoroughly evident during the Acers’ semi-final victory over the Chennai Smashers where he held off a late charge from Brice Leverdez.
Against HS Prannoy, the Indonesian should be brimming with confidence after having beaten him 15-8, 15-6 during their league showdown.
What might work against the Acers player is tiredness. If Sugiarto, who has played in five matches, startsfeeling weary, the 20th ranked Prannoy wouldn’t hesitate to take his chances.
Women’s singles: PC Thulasi (DA) vs Li Han (MR) (probable)
The last time the Acers and the Rockets met, Mumbai had fielded the young Ruthvika Shivani against Delhi’s PC Thulasi. The Delhi player staged a brilliant comeback to beat the 18-year-old.
However this time, Thulasi is likely to be presented with an even stiffer challenge. Li Han comes into the final contest with some great momentum after stunning the World No. 2 Saina Nehwal in the semi-finals. It goes without saying that the Acers wouldn’t think twice about whom to field after such a superb show by their Chinese recruit.
Thulasi has been inconsistent lately and going by their recent form, it is no doubt that the advantage lies with the Rockets in this match.
Men’s singles: Ajay Jayaram (DA) vs RMV Gurusaidutt (MR) (probable)
World No. 21 Ajay Jayaram did not play in the Delhi vs Mumbai round-robin encounter. But after an inspiring performance from Jayaram in the Acer’s semi-final win, Delhi would be keen to include him in the playing squad.
No matter how much upbeat he might be feeling after the semis, his final opponent is someone he needs to be wary of. The 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt enjoys a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over the Delhi shuttler and can certainly give Ajay a hard time.
Having said that, Gurusaidutt did not meet Jayaram after 2013 and a lot has happened in the intervening period. While the Mumbai player is trying hard to come back from an injury-ravaged 2015, the in-form Jayaram is currently perched at his best-ever ranking of 21.
Can the Dutch Open winner channelize his positive energy into a win over his nemesis?
Men’s doubles: Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong (DA) vs Mathias Boe/Vladimir Ivanov (MR) (probable)
This clash has the potential to be the best match of the day. Both these men’s doubles pairs have been very impressive throughout the PBL and none would like to bow down without a fight. It is thus no surprise that when these two met during the league stage, the match went the distance.
The Delhi pair won that encounter and should be feeling optimistic about their chances. That said, Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov are on a high coming into this match. During the Mumbai vs Awadhe semi-final, they came back to upset the Awadhe duo which had the reigning Olympic men’s doubles champion Cai Yun. That three-game win definitely gave them the impetus before the final and they would like to bank on it to turn the tables over the Acers combine this time.
It would also be interesting to see if the Delhi franchise selects this as their ‘Trump Match’.
Mixed doubles: Koo Kien Keat/Gabrielle Adcock (DA) vs Vladimir Ivanov/Kamilla Juhl (MR) (probable)
Delhi did not put their most reliable pair of Koo Kien Keat/Gabrielle Adcock in the Mumbai vs Delhi round-robin clash, thus paving the way for the Mumbai duo of Vladimir Ivanov/Kamilla Juhl’s victory.
This time, the Acers would surely be looking to field their more experienced duo in this crucial tie.Even then, it is the Mumbai duo who should be considered the slight favourites in this mixed doubles face-off. Ivanov and Juhl have been complementing each other well and have got two wins. To add to that, they would be eager to wipe away the memories of their heartbreaking three-game loss to the Warriors during their semi-final match.
Delhi, on the other hand, have experimented with their mixed doubles pair many times and that might not work well against such a strong and steady pair. Mumbai might also think of putting the Acers under pressure by calling this their ‘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