With South Korean ace Sung Ji Hyun taking charge of the women’s singles department, the Mumbai Rockets certainly want to go one better this time when the 2017 Premier Badminton League (PBL-2) begins on January 1. The 25-year-old Sung is coming into this pan-Indian league riding on a sizzling show at the World Superseries Finals at Dubai held this month.
Sung won four matches in a row to finish as the runner-up at this elite event and eventually rose to a career-best World No. 3 ranking. Sung, who won three titles in 2016, would certainly like to continue playing with so much confidence when she turns up for the PBL-1 runners-up.
India No. 2 and No. 3 Ajay Jayaram and HS Prannoy will be padding up for the men’s singles duties. Interestingly they were on opposite sides when the Delhi Acers met the Mumbai Rockets in the final last season.
The former Acers player Jayaram obviously has the experience of being in a winning team and that can certainly help a long way when the going gets tough. The 19th ranked Jayaram made it to back-to-back quarter-finals at Superseries events at the end of the season which bodes well for the Rockets.
For the 28th ranked Prannoy, it has been an up-and-down season after winning the Swiss Open but if he can find his feet, he can be a dangerous opponent for anyone to face.
Having the mighty doubles exponent Lee Yong Dae in the team can work wonders. The 28-year-old Korean might have bowed out of international competition this year but his presence can certainly boost the confidence of his teammates by miles.
Lee’s list of accomplishments is staggering. He was the World No. 1 in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles and has a whopping 43 Superseries titles to his name across the two disciplines, besides a couple of Olympic medals. His guidance and expertise will come in handy as the Rockets chase their maiden PBL crown.
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World No. 16 Nipitphon Phuangphuapet will prove to be a useful partner for the Korean icon. India’s 19-year-old Chirag Shetty too has been on a roll, winning four titles this year and can be of quite a help should they need his services.
The mixed doubles challenge will be led by the Polish star Nadiezda Zieba. The 32-year-old has been a former top-ranked player in that category and has won three titles in 2016.
HS Prannoy upbeat about the Rockets’ title chances
Having been on the losing side in the 2016 summit clash, it’s not a surprise that the Mumbai Rockets’ HS Prannoy is eager to see his team cross the finish line this time. The strong squad has definitely bolstered the team’s title-winning chances and the 24-year-old sounded very optimistic about it during a recent media interaction.
“I am very excited to be part of Mumbai Rockets for the second year. We had a great season last year and missed the title by a whisker. We want to win it this time. We have a great team and everyone is in great form,” said the Swiss Open champion.
Career highlights of Team Mumbai Rockets members:
Sung Ji Hyun (WR 3 in women’s singles, Korea) – 2016 Syed Modi International, 2016 New Zealand Open, 2016 Korea Masters, 2014 and 2015 Korea Open, 2015 World Championships bronze medal, 2014 Asian Championships gold
Vrushali Gummadi (WR 333 in women’s singles, India) – 2015 U19 junior national champion
Ajay Jayaram (WR 19 in men’s singles, India) – 2014 and 2015 Dutch Open
HS Prannoy (WR 28 in men’s singles, India) – 2016 Swiss Open, 2016 South Asian Games silver, 2014 Indonesian Masters
Shreyansh Jaiswal (WR 114 in men’s singles, India) – 2016 Bangladesh International silver medal
Lee Yong Dae (Retired in 2016, Korea) – 2008 Olympic gold in mixed doubles, 2012 Olympic bronze in men’s doubles, 6 medals from the World Championships, 37 Superseries titles in men’s doubles, 6 Superseries titles in mixed doubles
Mohita Sahdev (WR 190 in women’s doubles, India) – 2012 Bahrain International in mixed doubles
Nadiezda Zieba (WR 15 in mixed doubles, Poland) – 2016 Welsh International, 2016 Polish Open, 2016 Swedish Masters, 2015 Bitburger Open, European Badminton Championships – 2012 gold, 2008 and 2010 silver, 2006 bronze; 2009 Hong Kong Open, 2010 Indonesia Open in mixed doubles
Nipitphon Phuangphuapet (WR 16 in men’s doubles, Thailand) – 2014 US Open, 2013 Canada Open in men’s doubles
Chirag Shetty (WR 68 in men’s doubles, India) – 2016 Mauritius International, 2016 Bangladesh International, 2016 India International Challenge, 2016 India International Series in men’s doubles
Also Read: PBL 2017 Team Profile: Bengaluru BlastersPublished 25 Dec 2016, 22:52 IST