Saina beats Zhang, keeps Awadhe Warriors stay afloat
Lucknow, Jan 4 (PTI) Saina Nehwal rallied to pull off a 8-15, 15-10, 15-13 victory over world number 11 Beiwen Zhang of USA and kept Awadhe Warriors afloat in the tie against Mumbai Rockets in the Premier Badminton League here today.
Mumbai have three matches out of five in the tie and are currently leading the duel 2-0 on points.
The world number 10, who is coming into the match at the back of a defeat against world number 1 Tai Tzu Ying, proved to be no match against Beiwen in the opening game.
The US Shuttler was using the length of the court perfectly, tormenting the Indian with her superb cross-court drops and smashes and raced to victory in the opening game in no time.
But Saina, known for her resilience, got back into the match and even though Beiwen was leading in the initial phases of second game, the Indian slowly turned the tide and went into break leading 8-7. She did not allow Beiwen any leeway post the interval and wrapped up the game to restore parity.
In the final game, Saina was in no mood to let go of the opportunity to pounce on her opponent and brought all her experience into play. She made full use of the tiring US player and went into the break with a lead of 8-4.
After the change of ends, even though Beiwen troubled the Indian with her impeccable net-play and saved three match points, it was Saina who eventually went on to win the match to send the packed stadium into rapturous celebration.
The tie is extremely crucial from Mumbai's point of view as they are currently languishing at the bottom of the table with six points.
A loss here means they will be virtually out of semifinals reckoning, but a win with good margin will keep them alive in the race.
Earlier in the day, Sameer Verma picked up a comfortable 15-6, 15-14 straight games victory against his compatriot Harshit Aggarwal to give Mumbai Rockets a huge 2 (-1) over Awadhe Warriors in this five-match duel.
The young Harshit, replacing Parupalli Kashyap in the line-up, could not mount any serious challenge and went down meekly in the opening game.
He did try to make a comeback in the second game and even though he was looking in better touch and took the game to the wire, it was Sameer who sealed the deal with a smash.
In the first match of the day, the mixed doubles pair of Lee Yong Dae and Gabriela Stoeva pulled off a major coup by beating Christinna Pedersen and Tang Chun Man 15-10, 14-15, 15-7 to give Mumbai the early lead into the tie.
The match also saw Awadhe getting penalised with a point as it was their trump match.
In the opening game of the match, the Mumbai duo were quick off the blocks and gave their team an early 8-2 lead. They dominated the proceeding from the word go and even though the Awadhe pair tried to show some resistance, they sealed the game in no time.
Christinna and Tang made a terrific comeback and even though they were challenged to the hilt, they enjoyed a slim lead throughout the second game. The Mumbai pair stayed hot on Awadhe's tail and when down 12-14, they saved two game points to tie the score 14-14.
With just a point needed, it could have gone either way but Lee Yong Dae found the nets, allowing Awadhe to stay in the match.
With the match tied 1-1, Mumbai were in relentless mood and completely dominated the Awadhe pair to close the match with a huge margin