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PBL 2018: 3 epic clashes to look forward to in the Hyderabad leg

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
473   //    26 Dec 2018, 18:15 IST

A Kidambi Srikanth vs Viktor Axelsen clash is always a treat for badminton fans!
A Kidambi Srikanth vs Viktor Axelsen clash is always a treat for badminton fans!

After a scintillating first leg in Mumbai, the Premier Badminton League (PBL) caravan has now moved on to Hyderabad -- the hub of badminton in India. And the very first match of the leg had some thrilling fireworks waiting for the badminton aficionados of the country when Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun upset the newly-crowned BWF World Tour Finals winner PV Sindhu.

The PBL action will continue in the City of Pearls till 28th December with four more matches still to play. There could be more such upsets and riveting encounters to remember.

Here are three clashes that could become epic:


#1 Viktor Axelsen (Ahmedabad Smash Masters) vs Kidambi Srikanth (Bengaluru Raptors)

Any time Viktor Axelsen and Kidambi Srikanth lock horns, it is always a classic. They have both reached the pinnacle of the world rankings and like to play a fast-paced, attacking game.

And that is the reason why they are very close in their head-to-head meetings in international matches. The Dane has a slight edge of 4-3 over the Indian.

Currently, Axelsen is placed sixth in the world rankings while Srikanth is two rungs below him at eighth. Their last face-off went in favour of Axelsen at the Dubai World Superseries Finals in 2017.

However, it needs to be mentioned that Srikanth did show a lot of resurgence towards the end of the 2018 season, reaching five quarter-finals and one semi-final. Axelsen, on the other hand, is coming off an injury break.

Even though he did win his first PBL 2018 match, this could go either way.


#2 PV Sindhu (Hyderabad Hunters) vs Beiwen Zhang (Awadhe Warriors)

Beiwen Zhang has become a nemesis for PV Sindhu of late. She has the ability to blunt Sindhu’s aggressive game with her superior placements at the net and her wonderful footwork. The lanky Sindhu can falter if she is moved around the court and Zhang capitalizes on that.

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She showed that in her win from match point down at the India Open final and then at the French Open again this year. But the Pullela Gopichand protégé exacted her revenge at the BWF World Tour Finals on her way to winning the title.

Zhang was a pale shadow of herself in that last encounter and Sindhu inched ahead in their head-to-head record 4-3 by winning that match with consummate ease.

Whether the American is motivated to beat Sindhu after that loss, remains to be seen.


#3 Sameer Verma (Mumbai Rockets) vs Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (North Eastern Warriors)

No matter how well Sameer Verma performed in 2018, he still could not cross the barrier called Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk at the Thailand Open. Thus Sameer still trails the Thai 2-3 in their head-to-head showdowns.

And this is what adds more spice to their upcoming clash at PBL 2018. The Thai is currently way below the Indian in the world rankings. While Tanongsak is 55th, Sameer is at a career-high ranking of 12th.

Verma did have his career-best finish to the season by winning three BWF titles and making it to the semi-finals of the BWF World Tour Finals. The 24-year-old has come to this tournament high on confidence and displayed that in his first match in the Mumbai leg where he beat HS Prannoy in straight games.

Now it will be interesting to see if Sameer still has problems in tackling Tanongsak even when he is playing the best badminton of his career.

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