The marquee clash of the titans between the Hyderabad Hunters’ Carolina Marin and the Chennai Smashers’ PV Sindhu absolutely lived up to the expectations as the second season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL-2) got off to a rollicking start at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.
In a pulsating opener, Marin got the better of Sindhu in three thrilling games to give the lead to the hosts. However, the Chennai franchise soon wrested back the momentum and led 3-1 by winning their mixed doubles Trump Match through the World No. 8 pair of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock. In the end, it was all left to the men’s doubles pair of Tan Wee Kiong and Tan Boon Heong, who not only won their Trump Match but also gifted an improbable 4-3 win to the home team.
Carolina Marin had looked completely off-colour the last time she met PV Sindhu at the World Superseries Finals in Dubai in December. But on Sunday, it was a different Marin, who looked much closer to the version who won the Olympic gold in 2016.
With her attacking game on point, the Spanish southpaw took the first game, 11-8 as Sindhu was goaded into making errors. The second game was topsy-turvy where a determined Sindhu saved as many as four match points to eke it out, 14-12.
However, she looked absolutely spent in the decider as Marin made an impressive comeback and was totally in control of the third game. The world champion cruised to 8-1 in no time and wrapped up the match, 11-8, 12-14, 11-2 much to the delight of the spectators.
In the first men’s singles match, last season’s Male MVP Tommy Sugiarto picked up from where had left in 2016, putting up a confidence-boosting display against the Hunters’ B Sai Praneeth. The Canada Open champion was no match for the Indonesian, who smashed his way to an 11-6, 11-8 victory.
Adcocks put Chennai up 3-1
The experienced mixed doubles duo of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock thoroughly dominated the mixed doubles contest against the Hunters’ Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Hoi Wah Chau. The young Indian Rankireddy produced some dazzling jump smashes but it was not enough to stall the momentum of the English pair who won their Trump Match to put the Smashers up 3-1.
Fortunes changed right at that juncture for the two teams. Hunters’ Rajiv Ouseph stormed back to defeat the reigning Denmark Open champion Tanongsak S after losing the opening game, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6.
Fortunes change in men's doubles
The men’s doubles match then proved crucial for either team. Being the Trump Match for the Hyderabad franchise, a win was guaranteed if the hosts clinched it. And that is exactly what they did.
The highly experienced Malaysian pair of Tan Wee Kiong and Tan Boon Heong was unrelenting as they dashed the hopes of Mads Pieler Kolding and B Sumeeth Reddy of the visiting team.
Kiong is the current World No. 1 while Heong is a former top-ranked player. They wasted no time in asserting their supremacy and took the match, 11-7, 11-8 to help the Hunters win the overall tie, 4-3.