Premier Badminton League 2020 concluded on 9th February this year which saw the defending champions Bengaluru Raptors successfully defend their title courtesy of a 4-2 win against the North Eastern Warriors.
Though this season had to do with the absence of a few big names such as Saina Nehwal, Carolina Marin among others, this edition handed an opportunity for youngsters to make a mark as Rituparna Das, Lakshya Sen rubbed shoulders with experienced stars such as PV Sindhu, Tai Tzu Ying and others.
With the fifth season of the Premier Badminton League producing some high-voltage matches, we take a look at five standout performances that were on display.
#1 P.S.Chan and E.H.Won vs North Eastern Warriors (Final)
The tie stood at 3-3 between the Bengaluru Raptors and North Eastern Warriors and a trump match win was all that the Raptors needed, while the Warriors needed to destroy the trump to win the league.
The Korea-Thailand combination of the Raptors was leading in the first game with them winning the game 15-14 on match point. However, the less experienced pair of the Warriors made a comeback in the second game and reversed the result to win 15-14 courtesy of a smart serve from the 19-year-old, Krishna Prasad. In his first-ever PBL match, the performance from Krishna was appealing to the eye.
The third game kept the audience on the edge of their seats as the defending champions' duo enjoyed an 8-2 lead before the Warriors fought their way back to reduce the deficit to just a single point at 11-12.
However, the Raptors duo ensured they held their lead in the end and clinched the game 15-12, and in the process took their side to a well-deserved title win.
#2 Michelle Li vs Hyderabad Hunters (Hyderabad leg)
In one of the most anticipated matches as part of the first Hyderabad leg, PV Sindhu was squaring off against Michelle Li. While the match was expected to go down to the wire, Michelle's strategy of keeping Sindhu at the net to avoid her powerful smashes worked in the former's favour.
Michelle dominated right from the start with quick net play and minimum unforced errors and took a 10-7 lead. Sindhu tried to come at par with her smashes while trailing 7-13, but the World No.10 Michelle Li wrapped up the first game 15-8.
In the second set, Sindhu was comfortable and things were under control with the score tied at 5-5. Notably, Sindhu's numerous unforced and forced errors gave easy points to Li, who raced into an 8-5 lead. Four consecutive points for Michelle laid the final nail in the coffin as Sindhu failed to make a comeback as Michelle claimed an upset win with a 15-9 win in the second set over the home side favourite.
#3 Rituparna Das vs Awadhe Warriors (Hyderabad leg)
In the 17th tie as part of PBL 2020, Rituparna Das of the Pune 7 Aces crushed a challenge from World No.14 Beiwen Zhang to lead her team into the semifinals of the competition. In their first-ever meeting, Das maintained her composure and did not look threatened by the trump, which helped her in winning the match through straight sets and by a 15-13, 15-12 margin.
Using smart net play and exquisite placement of the shuttle, Das, ranked 100th in the singles division was able to keep her opponent under pressure that ultimately saw her cruise through to a confidence-boosting win.
#4 Sai Praneeth vs Pune 7 Aces (Lucknow leg)
Sai Praneeth started his PBL 2020 season with two losses but claimed his first win against Loh KY of the Pune 7 Aces. An all-round stroke play and extensively strong attack saw Sai Praneeth leading in the first half of play by a 6-4 margin. However, Loh KY took the lead after winning four consecutive points and claimed a lead at 8-6 which he converted into a 15-10 set win.
While Loh won the first set, the higher-ranked Sai Praneeth bounced back in the second set and with an ultra-aggressive approach, closed out a 15-7 win in the second set to take the match into the decider.
The decider was a closely contested affair with both the players covering the court smoothly and Praneeth taking an 8-7 lead. However, Sai Praneeth held onto his advantage and with a couple of powerful smashes, closed out a vital 15-8 win.
#5 Priyanshu Rajawat vs Mumbai Rockets (Hyderabad leg)
One of the most notable matches of the season was contested between 18-year-old Priyanshu Rajawat from the Hyderabad Hunters and World No. 50, Lee Dong Keun. In the Chennai leg, Priyanshu faced defeat against Lakshya Sen but the former came back to put in an impressive performance against Lee Keun.
With his deception and eye-catching smashes, Priyanshu made it difficult for the experienced Lee to try and make a comeback. The youngster did not give up at any point in the match and was focused during the rallies, displaying effective net play and smashes with utmost precision.
Undoubtedly, this was one of the most exciting victories in the PBL 2020 and the youngster definitely stamped his authority in the badminton circles.