PBL 2017: Saina Nehwal and Srikanth Kidambi lead Awadhe Warriors to victory over Delhi Acers
Two of India’s best shuttlers – Saina Nehwal and Srikanth Kidambi – combined to take the Awadhe Warriors to the top of the leaderboard in the 2017 Premier Badminton League (PBL-2) at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium in Lucknow on Thursday. The 2016 semi-finalists put in a dominant display to thrash the defending champions Delhi Acers 6-(-1) in the opening match of their home leg.
This was the second time the Acers were humiliated by such a scoreline after going down against the Mumbai Rockets in Mumbai. With two consecutive losses, the Delhi franchise is virtually out of contention for a place in the semi-finals.
The tie started with an emphatic victory in men’s doubles for the hosts. V Shem Goh and Markis Kido were in control of their match against the Delhi duo of Vladimir Ivanov and Akshay Dewalkar right from the start.
With a supreme quality of play, the Awadhe combine won 11-4, 11-4.
Nehwal overcomes slow start to win Trump Match
In the most-awaited clash of the day, Saina Nehwal faced the 16th ranked Nitchaon Jindapol against whom Saina has a 7-0 head-to-head record in international matches. Considering it was the Trump match, a lot depended on the home favourite.
Saina had a slow start in both the games but, just like she has done numerous times before, recovered well to beat the Acers player, 14-12, 11-7.
The World No. 16 led 6-4 at the interval of the first game. On resumption, Saina stormed back to take four points in a row and lead 8-6.
However, a late surge from Jindapol saw the Thai reaching game point at 10-9. Nehwal finally found an extra gear to weather the storm and take the opener, 14-12.
In a mirror image of the first game, Jindapol went up 4-2 in the second game. Saina came back soon with some pitch-perfect shot placement and levelled it at 4-4. From 7-7, she broke away to 10-7 and converted her first match point with a fabulous down-the-line winner.
Srikanth upsets World No. 2
Saina’s win was followed by the India No. 1 men’s singles player Srikanth Kidambi’s 11-9, 11-13, 11-9 win over the World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen. Srikanth had beaten the Dane in the Rio Olympics pre-quarter-finals so he definitely had a lot of confidence going into this one.
Constantly attacking the backhand wing of the reigning China Open champion, the Warriors ace forced the Dane into a flurry of errors to go up 9-7. Jorgensen evened the game at 9-9 but his efforts went in vain soon after as he lost the opener on a challenge, 9-11.
The second game looked to be a one-way traffic early on as the Indian raced ahead to 6-2. He, however, could not hold off Jorgensen from making an impressive comeback, who clinched it 13-11.
In the decider, Jorgensen speeded up and put Srikanth under pressure after trailing 4-6 at the lemon break. The World No. 15 managed to hold his nerves and edge his higher-ranked rival for the victory.
Srikanth’s win also gave the Warriors an unassailable lead of 4-0 and wrapped up the tie.
In the final two matches of the day, Acers’ Vladimir Ivanov and Jwala Gutta were beaten 10-12, 5-11 by the Warriors’ Bodin Isara and Savitree Amitrapai while the World No. 4 men’s singles exponent Son Wan Ho too fell 8-11, 6-11 to the 17th ranked Wong Wing-ki Vincent of the home team.