The defence of their 2016 Premier Badminton League (PBL) title has not gone the way the Delhi Acers would have liked. If last season they were very much an insurmountable barrier for their opponents, this time it is just the opposite.
The Acers have struggled in every department and have been inflicted a humiliating (-1)-6 defeat by the Mumbai Rockets and the Awadhe Warriors in two of their three outings with the third being a 3-4 loss to the Bengaluru Blasters.
What is more surprising is that, despite having two of the top-4 men’s singles players, they haven’t been able to capitalise on their chances and are now languishing at the bottom of the table.
In Sunday’s first match, the defending champions face the sizzling Chennai Smashers, who are in fourth position after two matches.
And that might be a difficult task for the Acers as the PV Sindhu-led team showed great form in their last match and pummelled the Blasters 5-0. But sport is unpredictable and that’s the beauty of it. Do the Acers still have any chance of upstaging the yellow brigade?
We analyse their chances here:
With PV Sindhu in their ranks, the Chennai franchise naturally has reasons to feel confident. The Delhi player Nitchaon Jindapol, incidentally, happens to be the very player who stopped the two-time World Championships bronze medallist at the Syed Modi International at home last year.
But things have changed since then. Sindhu is coming off a fabulous second half of 2016 where she won the Rio Olympics silver medal and the China Open, besides making it to the Hong Kong Open final and the World Superseries Finals semi-finals.
She has been able to maintain playing with that confidence level and even took a game off the Olympic champion Carolina Marin before losing in PBL-2. It is expected that the 21-year-old will be up for revenge this time.
In men’s singles, it will be interesting to see last year’s male MVP Tommy Sugiarto donning Chennai colours this time when he takes on his former team, the Delhi Acers. He was one of the principal reasons why Delhi had so much success the last time.
He has a close 2-3 record against the Delhi No. 2 Son Wan Ho and surely has the potential to upset the Korean.
The Chennai No. 1 Tanongsak S, meanwhile, has a poor 0-3 record against the World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen and if that trend holds up, the Dane should emerge the victor.
It all boils down to the doubles action where the Chennai mixed doubles team of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock should have the last word. Gabrielle too will be meeting her former team as she was a part of the Acers last year.
The outcome of the men’s doubles match should be pivotal in deciding the final result. World No. 9 pair of Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov hasn’t been at their best and has been winless. On the other hand, the Chennai duo of Chris Adcock and Mads Pieler Kolding combined extremely well in their most recent match.
With Kolding’s power smashes from the baseline and Chris’ all-court movement, Chennai eked out a tough three-game win over the strong Bengaluru pair of Ko Sung Hyun and Yoo Yeon Seong.
Can they conjure up that magic once again?
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