In an absolutely riveting final, the PV Sindhu-led Chennai Smashers edged past the Mumbai Rockets 4-3 to win the 2017 Premier Badminton League (PBL) title at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium in Delhi on Saturday. This was the maiden PBL title for the southern franchise after finishing as the semi-finalists last year.
Denmark Open champion Tanongsak S was the one who delivered the championship winning points after the Thai beat Mumbai’s Ajay Jayaram, 9-11, 11-7, 11-3.
Earlier in the day, Rio Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu played a brilliant match to prevail over the 3rd ranked Sung Ji Hyun of the Mumbai Rockets, 11-8, 11-8.
Both the teams, meanwhile, won their respective Trumps. The Chennai mixed doubles duo of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock beat the Mumbai pair of Nipitphon P and Nadiezda Zieba 11-9, 11-6 in the opening match of the final.
Mumbai won their Trump through the men’s doubles pair of Lee Yong Dae and Nipitphon, who got the better of Chris Adcock and Mads Pieler Kolding, 12-10, 11-6. Their win enabled them to come back into the tie after initially trailing 0-3.
Mumbai’s HS Prannoy continued to sizzle after remaining unbeaten throughout the PBL-2. The Mumbai ace beat his India teammate Parupalli Kashyap, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8 to notch up his seventh win in a row. The only setback for the Chennai brigade was Kashyap’s shoulder injury. The 30-year-old, who underwent a knee surgery last year, dived to retrieve a shot and hurt his shoulder in the process.
In the post-match interview, the Commonwealth Games champion revealed that the shoulder was not feeling too well and he will have to do an MRI very soon to assess the extent of the damage.
Adcocks give a winning start to Chennai
The two teams had met on Tuesday in the Bengaluru leg where the Chennai Smashers won by an identical score.
Chennai went with their Trump players in the opening match of the tie. Gaby Adcock had been a part of 2016 championship-winning team, the Delhi Acers and certainly knew what it takes to win the PBL title.
The Adcocks had succumbed to the Awadhe Warriors duo of Bodin Isara and Savitree Amitrapai in the semi-finals and were surely looking to bounce back. It turned out to be a gritty, hard-fought contest in the first game against the Mumbai pair of Zieba and Nipitphon.
Nipitphon mixed up his shots to make it a neck-and-neck encounter in the opener before Chris hit a wondrous volley that floated over the net to bag the game, 11-9. In the second game, the Mumbai team led 4-2 only to see the determined Adcocks coming back to level at 6-6.
From there, the English shuttlers raced ahead to victory by taking five points in a row.
Brilliant Sindhu makes it 3-0 for Chennai
The second match was the much-awaited one between the World No. 3 Sung Ji Hyun of the Rockets and the World No. 6 PV Sindhu of the Smashers. The latter had reigned supreme when they met during the league stage.
The Korean tried moving the shuttle around the court to extract errors from Sindhu and went up 4-2 initially. But the 21-year-old stormed back in stunning fashion thereafter.
With her barrage of power-packed smashes, Sindhu took a 6-4 lead at half-time and got the game, 11-8 as the Chennai dugout kept applauding profusely.
The Korean hit a few loose shots in the opening stages of the second game to quickly trail 2-4. But she still managed to level things at 5-5 thanks to her superb footwork.
However, she was not able to keep up the tempo after the interval when Sindhu raised her game further. It was smooth sailing for the Indian since then as she rode high on her ultra aggressive game to go up 9-5. Sung pocketed a few points by dint of her stubborn defence following which Sindhu closed it out at 11-8.
In the men’s doubles match, the Mumbai Trump duo of Lee and Nipitphon staved off a mighty challenge from Adcock and Mads Pieler Kolding. The men in yellow rebounded from a 2-4 deficit to keep it competitive till 10-10 in the first game.
The second game was hassle-free as the Mumbai duo gained in confidence with every point and the Chennai pair fell apart.
Kashyap fights hard despite hurting his shoulder
HS Prannoy took the court in the first men’s singles match of the day and there was no let-up in his intensity against his Gopichand Academy mate Parupalli Kashyap. Banking on his incredibly aggressive play, the Mumbai player dominated the proceedings from the start and took the first game, 11-4.
But Kashyap made a remarkable turnaround by smartly absorbing the power of his compatriot in the second game. His exceptional defence and retrieval skills aided him to make it one game apiece.
The third game was in Prannoy’s command yet again even though the spirited Kashyap closed the gap to 6-7 despite hurting his shoulder. The Commonwealth Games champion fought till 8-9 before Prannoy rocketed to victory.
Tanongsak the hero of the day
It was then all down to Ajay Jayaram of the Mumbai Rockets against the Chennai Smashers' Tanongsak S for the title. Tanongsak has a 3-0 record over Ajay on the BWF Tour but had lost both his outings at the PBL-2.
It might have seemed to be a gamble gone wrong by the Smashers after Ajay made a great start and went up 11-9.
But the Denmark Open champion injected a lot of pace and power into his shots second game onwards that made life difficult for Jayaram. The Thai surged to 8-3 as Ajay looked more and more uncomfortable. The Chennai player soon made it all square by taking the second game, 11-7.
The third game was all Tanongsak as Jayaram struggled with his length and looked very off-colour. The southpaw sensed that his opponent was lacking in confidence and simply turned up the heat.
From 5-3, he took six points on the trot to make it a memorable evening for the Smashers.