PBL 2018: 5 stand out performances from the Bengaluru leg
The league stage of Premier Badminton League Season 4 is over and it did not disappoint as four brilliant teams made it to the knockout stages with new franchise Pune 7 Aces finishing in the 5th position.
Awadhe Warriors topped the league with 25 points as they beat Chennai Smashers 4-3 and thrashed North East Warriors 5-0 in the last leg to end a miserable season for the Saina Nehwal-led team. Bengaluru Raptors sealed their qualification to the knockout stages with a convincing 5-0 win over Mumbai Rockets and a 3-2 win against Chennai Smashers as well.
The Mumbai-based franchise were already assured of a knockout stage spot though as was Hyderabad Hunters who lost 4-3 to minnows Delhi Dashers.
Let's look at 5 stand-out performances from the Bengaluru leg.
#1 Beiwen Zhang
The World No.12 ace opened her PBL season 4 account with a loss to Carolina Marin but since then has won every match barring one defeat to Sung Ji-Hyun. In her winning streak, she defeated World No.3 PV Sindhu as well.
Riding high on confidence, Zhang faced Saina Nehwal in Awadhe Warriors' match against North Eastern Warriors. The former World No.1 won the first game 15-11 comfortably but lost the second game to the American by the same scoreline as she came out blazing on all cylinders with full aggression.
The decider was settled by the American in fashion as she used shot placements and long rallies to beat her opponent 15-7 in the third game helped her get another win against a top Indian player.
#2 B Sai Praneeth
After losing to Sourabh Verma in his first match in the tournament, B Sai Praneeth has witnessed a change in his fortunes as he has won every match since then including both of his matches in the Bengaluru leg.
In Bengaluru Raptors' 5-0 win over Mumbai Rockets, Sai defeated Sameer Verma which was a trump match for the Rockets. The 26-year old lost the first game 12-15 but came back in the second game to defeat his opponent 15-5 who is ranked more than 10 places above him currently. The decider was a nail-biter but was clinched 15-13 by Praneeth as he helped his side inflict a heavy defeat on Rockets.
Again, in Raptors' 3-2 win over Chennai Smashers, it was a trump card match for the Smashers. They decided to go with Parupalli Kashyap who lost to Sai in straight sets. The Bengaluru crowd got to see Praneeth at his best which leaves one with the thought of 'If he keeps performing like this consistently, he can be a world beater'.
#3 Mathias Christiansen
In North Eastern Warriors' demolition at the hands of Awadhe Warriors, Mathias Christiansen played a big part as he teamed up with Ashwini Ponnappa to win a trump match for his side.
The Awadhe pair faced Ha Na Kim and Min Chun Liao, who were representing the North Eastern Warriors. Christiansen and Ponnappa made light work of their opponents in the first game as they won it 15-7. The second game was a much tighter competition as the Awadhe pair edged it 15-14 in their favour to win the match in straight games.
Previously in the leg, Awadhe faced Chennai Smashers and came out with a narrow 4-3 victory, thanks to Christiansen and Lee Yang. The Awadhe pair had to face the pair of Chris Adcock and B Sumeeth Reddy representing Chennai.
Christiansen and Yang showed skills of the highest standards to win the match 15-8, 15-6 as they ran out with 2 points before the blink of an eye.
#4 Chris Adcock
In Chennai Smashers' match against Awadhe Warriors, Chris Adcock and Gabby Adcock defeated the pair of Mathias Christiansen and Ashwini Ponnappa.
The English pair won the first game 15-13 but were outclassed in the second game as they lost 15-9. The decider was a nail-biter which was just edged by the English pair as they won the match 15-13, 9-15, 15-14.
The Smashers also faced the home team, Bengaluru Raptors in the last leg of the league stage. In the first match of the night, Chris Adcock paired up with Chin Chung Or to face the Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.
The former world champions edged the first game 15-14 but lost out in the second and the third game (915 and 11-15 respectively) to hand the point over to the Smashers.
#5 Kidambi Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth maintained his winning streak by defeating both of his opponents he faced in the Bengaluru leg.
In Bengaluru Raptors' match against Mumbai Rockets, the captain of the Bengaluru side faced Anders Antonsen.
In the first game, Srikanth was leading 8-5 before the Dane pulled backed the score to 9-9. The neck-to-neck battle intensified as the score reached 13-13. Antonsen grabbed a point but was denied the game point twice by the World No.8 to wrap the first game 15-14. The second game was a similar one with the World No.18 again losing out narrowly as Srikanth settled the match with a 15-13 win in the second game.
In Raptors' 4-3 win over Chennai Smashers, Srikanth played a big role as he defeated Chong Wei Fang in his side's trump match winning 15-10, 15-10 taking his unbeaten record to the knockout stages.