After losing in the final of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) last year, the Mumbai Rockets are certainly determined to go all the way this time. The Rockets continued their winning streak after yet another inspired performance saw Ajay Jayaram stun Bengaluru Blasters’ Viktor Axelsen en route to a 4-1 victory over the hosts at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium at Bengaluru on Sunday.
The Blasters did win two of their matches – the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles. But it was the Trump loss of the Olympic bronze medallist Axelsen that cost them dearly.
The tie started with the men’s singles match between Bengaluru’s Sourabh Verma and Mumbai’s HS Prannoy. It was the lower-ranked Sourabh, who stormed out of the blocks as Prannoy took some time to settle into the match.
A clueless Prannoy lost the first game 4-11 but he quickly regrouped in the second for a remarkable turnaround. Verma then went off the boil as he struggled to find a way to counter the Swiss Open champion’s barrage of attacking shots.
The ruthless Prannoy never relented in the final two games and closed out the win, 4-11, 11-6, 11-3.
In a sensational men’s doubles match that followed, the hosts levelled the tie through the duo of Ko Sung-Hyun and Yoo Yeon Seong, who edged the Mumbai pair of Lee Yong Dae and Nipithphon Phuangphuapet, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5.
The stadium witnessed some of the highest quality of doubles action in the contest which will undoubtedly go on to remain as one of the best matches of PBL 2017.
Inspired Jayaram upsets Axelsen
The crowd, which went delirious on seeing their home team level the tie, soon fell silent as Bengaluru’s star player Viktor Axelsen succumbed to a straight games defeat to Mumbai’s Ajay Jayaram.
There was a difference of 16 ranking places between the 19th ranked Jayaram and the 3rd ranked Axelsen but Ajay never looked intimidated. Rather, the Dane was the one who looked rattled and uncomfortable for most of the match.
As errors kept mounting from Axelsen’s racquet, Ajay opened up a 6-2 lead. The World Superseries Finals champion made a brief comeback with some smart deception to close the gap to 8-10 but the determined Ajay wrapped up the opener, 11-8.
The initial part of the second game looked to be totally in Axelsen’s grip as he built a 5-1 advantage. However, the Dane was unsuccessful in holding on to his lead and let Ajay come back into the match.
The Mumbai Rockets ace then evened the score at 5-5 and put Axelsen under tremendous pressure from thereon. At 7-7, a controversial point was awarded to the Indian after the umpire deemed that Viktor made a foul at the net.
The Dane never recovered and Jayaram clinched the 11-8, 11-9 win with a fabulous down-the-line smash soon after that.
That loss pretty much sealed the Blasters’ fate as the Mumbai team was always the favourite to win the women’s singles contest.
That is exactly what happened. The World No. 3 Sung Ji Hyun, who is in the form of her life, grabbed a Trump win for the Rockets by beating the 19th ranked Cheung Ngan Yi, 11-7, 11-8.
The mixed doubles pair of Ko and Sikki Reddy salvaged some pride for the hosts by prevailing 11-6, 11-7 over the Rockets’ Nipithphon Phuangphuapet and Nadiezda Zieba in the final match of the day.