The first leg of 2018 in the highly entertaining Premier Badminton League (PBL) 2018 took place in Lucknow from 1-4 January. The Lucknow leg was full of some extremely close matches and we also got to witness some surprising results.
Here are the five best players from the Lucknow leg:
#1 Chong Wei Feng
Malaysian player Chong Wei Feng features in the list of the top 5 players yet again. The 30-year-old has been in red hot form throughout the season and has been one of the best players of the Bengaluru Blasters.
In the first fixture of the year, the Bengaluru Blasters took on the Mumbai Rockets. Feng showcased his talent yet again as he defeated Indian Sameer Verma 2-1. After losing the first game 9-15, Feng came back to win the next two games comprehensively -- 15-8 and 15-6. Feng's victory ensured that the Blasters ended up winning the fixture 6-(-1) and started the year with a bang.
#2 Viktor Axelsen
The world number one is the second player from the Bengaluru Blasters to be on this list. Bengaluru demolished the Mumbai Rockets and Axelsen faced Korean player Son Wan Ho in his singles game.
The match was highly anticipated by all since Wan Ho has been formerly top ranked. The match did not live up to the hype and Wan Ho was blown away by Axelsen. The Danish champion won in straight games, beating the Korean 15-6, 15-13.
Axelsen is unbeaten in PBL so far and looks very much unbeatable. The Blasters are all set to take on the Chennai Smashers in the Chennai leg, which started on January 5.
#3 Parupalli Kashyap
The second game of the Lucknow leg saw the Awadhe Warriors take on the Ahmedabad Smash Masters. The tie was a very close one and the Awadhe Warriors ended up clinching it 4-3.
One of the most entertaining games of the fixture was the men's singles match between Parupalli Kashyap and Sourabh Verma. Kashyap dropped the first game 11-15 but managed to come back from the brink and saved as many as four match points to bag an improbable win.
Sourabh Verma fought very well but Kashyap wrapped up the next two games 15-13, 15-14. The win was crucial for the Awadhe Warriors as Kashyap was their Trump and he proved why he is one of the best Indian shuttlers around. An amazing comeback victory from Kashyap ensured that the Awadhe Warriors stayed in the top half of the PBL table.
#4 Sung Ji Hyun
The Korean plays for the Delhi Dashers in the PBL 2018 and she took on India's best female shuttler, PV Sindhu in the women's singles game in Delhi's clash with the Chennai Smashers. Sung is currently ranked number 6 in the world while Sindhu is ranked number 3.
The Indian took the first game 15-11 and looked rock solid as usual. The Korean surprised everyone when she came back and won the next two games 15-13, 15-14. An amazing comeback victory for Sung ensured that the Delhi Dashers beat the Chennai Smashers 3-0.
This is the Delhi Dashers' second win in the PBL this season after defeating the Hyderabad Hunters in the Delhi leg. After suffering a loss at the hands of Carolina Marin in the previous match, the win over Sindhu will surely boost Sung's morale.
#5 Saina Nehwal
The final fixture of the Lucknow leg saw the Awadhe Warriors take on the Mumbai Rockets. This was the Awadhe Warriors' second home fixture after beating the Ahmedabad Smash Masters earlier.
The women's singles match saw Saina Nehwal take on American shuttler Beiwen Zhang. Although the Awadhe Warriors ended up on the losing side, Saina Nehwal made an incredible comeback and beat Zhang.
Nehwal lost the opener 8-15 but stepped her game up and won the next two games 15-10, 15-13. After losing her last match to the World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, the win against Zhang might prove to be the perfect catalyst for Nehwal as she gears up for the new season.