World No. 10 Michelle Li staved off a spirited challenge from Rituparna Das to take the North Eastern Warriors to a commanding 5-0 win against the Pune 7 Aces at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad as they sealed their semi-final spot at the Star Sports Premier Badminton League.
The loss snapped Pune’s three-match winning streak as the Guwahati-based franchise bagged their third victory in five ties with a fabulous performance that saw them win four of the five matches of the day.
With the 15-8, 13-15, 15-13 win against the resilient Das, Li has remained unbeaten in four ties. With the responsibility of the Warriors’ Trump, Li was expected to cruise against the Pune player but the World No. 100 displayed remarkable courage under pressure despite losing the first game 8-15.
In a spectacular turnaround, Das put the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist under pressure with her smart placement of the shuttle before grinding out the second game. A visible injury on her right hand could not deter the 23-year-old whose composure left the crowd in awe.
In the tight decider, Das even moved ahead to 11-10 as the match headed to a close finish. Li had to dig deep to level the score at 12-12 and then inched ahead to 14-12 to have a couple of match points in hand. Das, who made it to the semi-finals of the Syed Modi International in November, even saved a match point before Li wrapped up the match to take the North Eastern Warriors to victory.
But what really helped the Guwahati team dismantle the high-flying Pune 7 Aces was their win against the Aces Trump of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock. The Commonwealth Games champions had come into this tie having not lost a single match this season. But against the supreme combination of Lee Yong Dae and Kim Ha Na, the two failed to bring their best game and slumped to a one-sided 6-15, 8-15 loss.
Earlier, PBL veteran Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk set the stage for the North Eastern Warriors’ win with a narrow 15-13, 15-14 win over World No. 73 Kazumasa Sakai. Tanongsak had won both his previous matches in the Hyderabad leg and brought that momentum today. With the two being tied 1-1 on the BWF circuit, a hard-fought match was always on the cards. The Thai was able to lift his game at the latter stages of every game to finish off the win for the Warriors.
Indonesia Masters semi-finalist Lee Cheuk Yiu brought his array of powerful smashes to prevail over the 37th ranked Loh Kean Yew of Pune 15-12, 15-8. The World No. 18 had mastered the Singaporean in both their meetings on the BWF World Tour and it was no different this time.