Fifth-placed Hyderabad Hunters needed just three points to leapfrog their southern neighbours, the Bengaluru Blasters into the semi-finals of the 2017 Premier Badminton League. And they came prepared for just that as their star player, Carolina Marin inspired the Hunters, and an all-around team effort to beat the Delhi Acers 5-2 at the Siri Fort Stadium on Thursday.
The Olympic champion was the one who delivered the crucial semi-final qualifying points through her Trump win after Sameer Verma and the pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chau Hoi Wah did their job in men’s singles and mixed doubles categories respectively.
In the semis, the Hunters will now face the Mumbai Rockets while the Awadhe Warriors will take on the Chennai Smashers.
Sameer Verma grabbed a comeback win
The tie began with a men’s singles match between Delhi’s PBL debutant Siril Verma against the Hunters’ Sameer Verma. Even though the Hong Kong Open runner-up started off things well, the teenager used his smart deceptions to level the game post the break and put Sameer under tremendous pressure.
Siril built on his momentum to take the opener, 11-8 before Sameer turned things around in the next two games.
By upping his pace and intensity, he gave no room to Siril to settle down and ran away with the match, 8-11, 11-3, 11-2.
In the mixed doubles match, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy was the star of the show. He was relentless and never backed off and produced his power-packed jump smashes that took the game away from the far experienced duo of Jwala Gutta and Vladimir Ivanov. With an absolutely dominant display, the Hunters combine notched up an 11-3, 11-4 win.
The solitary win of the evening for the hosts came through the world No. 2 men’s singles player, Jan O Jorgensen. The Dane put up a commanding performance, asserting himself thoroughly against the World No. 16 Rajiv Ouseph.
The Englishman made a mini comeback in the second game by mixing up his shots and forcing errors off the Dane’s racquet. But it was not enough as Jorgensen wrapped it up 11-5, 11-7 in the end.
Marin vs Jindapol was the high point of this tie
It was then left to PBL-2’s costliest player, Carolina Marin to deliver the needful to her team although she didn’t have it easy initially against the determined Nitchaon Jindapol of the Acers. The world No. 16 refused to bow down to the Olympic champion and played out of her skin.
Egged on by the crowd, who kept on chanting, “'Jindapol, Jindapol”, the Thai found an extra spurt of motivation to put Marin under the cosh. She held two game points at 10-8 before Marin stormed back for 10-10.
The absorbing game, which was, without a doubt, the high point of the evening, continued till 14-14 as each player put in their very best. The game came to an end in the most dramatic fashion when the Hawkeye confirmed that Marin’s shot had barely clipped the baseline, thus awarding the opener to the visitors.
By varying the height of the shuttle beautifully, Jindapol was engaged in a neck-and-neck encounter with the Spaniard till 4-4 in the second game after which the two-time world champion simply accelerated to bag the match, 15-14, 11-4.
In the last match of the day – the men’s doubles – the Hyderabad pair of Tan Boon Heong and Tan Wee Kiong grabbed an 11-9, 13-11 victory over the reigning All England champions Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov.
The Russians found fire towards the end of the match when they were trailing 7-10. Some unbelievable rallies ensued right at that point before the Tans wrapped things up.