PBL 2018: Ahmedabad Smash Masters become the first team to qualify for semi-finals

hs prannoy
Agony and ecstasy: This photo pretty much summed up how the day went for HS Prannoy and Son Wan Ho

The Ahmedabad Smash Masters continue their memorable run on debut as they became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 2018 on Tuesday. The Gujarat franchise ensured their berth in the last-four stage after they thumped the two-time runners-up Mumbai Rockets 5-0 in the last tie of the Chennai leg.

It was a dominant display by the Ahmedabad franchise, who won four out of the five matches on the night. With that success that took their tally to 17 points, they climbed two spots to reach the top position in the eight-team table while Mumbai continued to languish at the bottom of the standings and are out of the semi-final race.

Tai and Prannoy lead the way

Ahmedabad were led by their two star performers -- World No. 1 women’s singles ace Tai Tzu Ying and the Indian national champion HS Prannoy. Both suffered a rare loss in their last outing against the Chennai Smashers, but this time they came fully prepared.

Prannoy, whose 10-match winning streak came to an end against Tanongsak, had a tough assignment as he faced the World No. 5 Son Wan Ho. The opening game remained pretty competitive till 12-12 after which the Indian found his usual aggressive game to bag it 15-12.

Prannoy had a lapse in focus in the second game and allowed the Korean to build an 11-8 lead. Just when it looked like the match might be heading to a deciding game, the World No. 10 woke up in time and started raining 330kmph smash winners on Son Wan Ho. That turned around the match and Prannoy soon completed a 15-12, 15-12 win.

In women’s singles, Tai Tzu Ying hardly faced any challenge from the World No. 11 Beiwen Zhang in the first game, which she effortlessly wrapped up with a score of 15-9. The next game turned out to be way more competitive and the Mumbai shuttler opened up a 4-0 lead.

The momentum continued to shift sides after that as Tai levelled matters at 6-6 and then marched ahead to 11-6 only to see the resilient American coming back and making it a two-point gap at 11-13.

Tai then produced her brilliant deceptive game and staved off Zhang’s late surge for a 15-9, 15-12 win.

Sourabh Verma wins tussle of siblings

The Smash Masters also triumphed in the second men’s singles match as well as the mixed doubles clash. The men’s singles was a fascinating affair for it pitted two brothers against each other with both of them being the Trump for their respective teams. While Sourabh Verma represented the Ahmedabad franchise, his younger sibling Sameer turned up for the Rockets.

Sameer had the early lead in both the games, but it was Sourabh who had the last laugh as he showed tremendous comeback skills to register a 15-14, 15-11 win.

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Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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