Kashyap, Nehwal secure wins, help Awadhe edge North Eastern Warriors

Saina Nehwal produced the headline result of the evening, while North Eastern Warriors fought back to render respectability to the scoreline.

An intense Saina Nehwal in her thrilling victory over Michelle Li that clinched the tie for Awadhe Warriors against North Eastern Warriors in the Premier Badminton League in Delhi on Saturday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Backed by a roaring audience that proclaimed the former World No.1 as the ‘’Queen of Indian badminton’’, Saina Nehwal overcame a lethargic start to win a thriller against Michelle Li 6-15, 15-13, 15-13 and sealed the tie for Awadhe Warriors with an unbeatable 4-0 lead against North Eastern Warriors in the Vodafone Premier Badminton League at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Saturday.

As it happened

The fans had assembled in strength to see Saina, who had won the World Championship bronze this season and had some rich memories at the venue. The anxiety of the fans was more after Saina had skipped the first tie, in which she was pitted to play against Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu.

The slow start when she struggled to win the first point, and did so after dropping five, and the fact that it went to pretty close in the second game, brought the crowd alive. Like a diesel engine that starts slow but accelerates with time, Saina stepped up her game and lunged for everything that her talented opponent threw at her, even though she was not quick on her feet. Saina stayed calm despite the struggle and concentrated intense to win the key points.

Michelle Li, quite athletic and deft with her strokes, could not handle the crunch as brilliantly as Saina did and erred her way out, hitting it wide on match point. Saina celebrated with a clenched fist and letting out a war cry.

A string of stinging smashes down the line had kept Saina afloat and the hopes of the adoring fans alive, after she had lost the first game in 10 minutes.

Earlier, the mixed doubles pair of Christinna Pedersen and Tang Chun Man, marked as the trump for the team, edged past Prajakta Sawant and Kim Gi Jung, to give a strong start for Awadhe.

The two points from the match was a strong cushion for Parupalli Kashyap, a former world No.6 and the quarterfinalist of the London Olympics, to unleash his A-game to scotch the hopes of Ajay Jayaram, in straight games.

Once he gained a strong hold over the match and the familiar opponent, with his imaginative play, Kashyap did not slacken his grip, especially in the second game that was better contested.

Kashyap followed up his shots nicely to affix his authority at the net, in the match that did not rise to expected levels of intensity. It was the second victory for Awadhe and the welcome points should power it to the top of the table, as it had already taken its tally to eight points, with two more rubbers to go, one of which featuring K. Srikkanth, the star of the season.

For North Eastern Warriors, who sport the slogan ‘’Awesome Assam’’, it was a bitter pill to swallow, after the two earlier losses in the league. The team had collected five points earlier from the two outings and was looking for its first from the tie against Awadhe.

North Eastern Warriors saved some face, with some late resurgence, as Tzu Wei Wang overcame the loss of the first game to overwhelm K. Srikkanth, and the doubles pair of Kim Gi Jung and Shin Baek Cheol clinched two points as the trump.

The results:

Awadhe Warriors leads North Eastern Warriors 4-3 ((T) Christinna Pedersen & Tang Chun Man bt Prajakta Sawant & Kim Gi Jung 15-14, 15-13; Parupalli Kashyap bt Ajay Jayaram 15-9, 15-12; Saina Nehwal bt Michelle Li 6-15, 15-13, 15-13; K. Srikkanth lost to Tzu Wei Wang 15-10, 9-15, 6-15; Hendra Setiawan & Tang Chun Man lost to (T) Kim Gi Jung & Shin Baek Cheol 10-15, 11-15).