It was a special Saturday in Chennai in the 2018 Premier Badminton League as last season's champions Chennai Smashers mounted a valiant fightback to win their tie against the Ahmedabad Smash Masters 2-1.
India's PV Sindhu, the captain of the Smashers, had to do double duty, playing the women's singles as well as the mixed doubles due to the injury to Gabrielle Adcock in their previous tie. But she won both matches, the mixed doubles clinching the tie for the Smashers after they had been down 0-2 at the end of the third match.
Sindhu and the Smashers enjoyed fantastic support from the crowd which made for a wonderful atmosphere, perhaps the best so far in this season's PBL.
Speaking after the tie, Sindhu thanked the crowd for the support.
"Well, it was really good. A fantastic crowd who I can say a big thank you to," said Sindhu. "The crowd played a very important role I feel. They were really supportive all the time. The venue is good and the crowd was also superb."
She even admitted that the crowd reactions and support were beyond what she had expected.
"I expected the crowd to be there. We being Chennai Smashers and playing here the first time, I did expect, but they-they were much more than what I expected," said the Olympic silver medalist.
This was the Smashers' first tie in the Chennai leg and the crowds showed up in numbers today to witness Sindhu and their home side. Consistently a huge draw now wherever she goes, Sindhu says she does feel the weight of expectations increase in the past two years.
"I'm used to it now," said Sindhu when asked about the massive following she receives and people's expectation for her to win every match she plays in.
"Since Olympics, the expectations have always been high, the responsibilities are always high. So it's just that people expect a lot from you and you have to keep going and keep working hard," proclaimed Sindhu.
In the most eagerly-anticipated match of the day Sindhu faced off against Tai Tzu Ying, the world number one from Chinese Taipei. Sindhu had beaten Tai at the Rio Olympics en route to her silver, but the world number one has enjoyed good results against her since with Tai having won their last four meetings.
Sindhu though beat Tai here to bring her team back level after the Smashers had lost the opening men's doubles. The match began slowly but went on to deliver as expected with both women playing their best in the third set before Sindhu eventually won 15-11 10-15 15-12 in an absorbing encounter.
"It was a really good match and it was 11-11, 12-12 in the third set. Each and every point is really important," said Sindhu about the contest.
"It feels really good (to get the win) and every match gives me confidence. Last time it was really close and I was a bit upset. But I bounced back and won this one."
Tai displayed her usual range of shots high on the disguise and the two of them delivered a fantastic match which the crowd absolutely loved. Asked whether she had done anything differently after losing to her four straight, Sindhu said that each encounter was different.
"Well, I feel every match is comparatively different because every time you play, it's a new game, new strategies. She might know my game and I might know her game, but each time it's different. It also depends on the atmosphere and the shuttle as well. So I just thought that I should give my best and play my game. And not thinking about the previous match, a fresh start for me."
Despite that win though, Brice Leverdez losing his trump match meant the Smashers were down 0-2 after three matches. That's when Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk caused the upset of the tournament in what was perhaps the best match of the day. In a must-win scenario, Tanongsak was up against HS Prannoy, the current world number 10, who had never lost a PBL match ever (10-matches unbeaten). But Tanongsak pulled it off coming back from 11-14 down in the third set to win a crazy final point that had 51 shots in it!
The crowd went berserk at that point and Sindhu revealed that so did she and her team.
"The last point yes," Sindhu beams almost nervously expressing how tight it was.
"We actually lost hope that Prannoy could be beaten, but we were also thinking that you know Brice was leading and we could have won our trump. So we were hoping a reverse happens and it actually happened," she said laughing.
"I think Prannoy played really well and that last point was fantastic. I mean, we all for one second were just motionless (when it finished). It was a tense match."
That meant the mixed doubles became a winner-takes-all contest and Sindhu took to the court again and in partnership with Sumeeth Reddy won the final tie beating Ahmedabad's pairing of Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Lee Reginald.
Sindhu said she enjoyed the experience especially as it was something she doesn't get otherwise.
"It was really nice playing against top players. I don't get a chance to play with them otherwise because I play singles only. It's a great experience. It's good that we did well and really won the match," she said.
However, she was quick to point out that it's not something that's in the works as far as her professional career was concerned.
"For now, it's only singles. For some more years it's only singles," she said with a chuckle.
Despite the win though, the Smashers have their task of making the semifinals cut out and it looks likely that we will have new champions.
Sindhu lamented a few things that have gone against her side while at the same time saying that they will try until the very end.
"Overall, we had some disappointments. We had some ups and downs. As you know, one of our teammates (Gabrielle Adcock) twisted her ankle. It could have been different against Delhi had that not happened. But you never know, there's another match with Bangalore. It's just that we have to keep going," she said looking ahead to Monday's tie.