PBL: Hunters hunt down Warriors in style, tops table

Hyderabad Hunters registered the joint biggest win by a team in the ongoing PBL season three. The trump matches turned out to be one-sided affairs in favour of the Hunters.

Carolina Marin needed only a little over 20 minutes to dispatch India's Saina Nehwal.   -  Jothi Ramalingam

'Serve it, smash it, win it, love it' is one of the most famous badminton slogans and Hyderabad Hunters loved every minute of its outing against Awadhe Warriors in a Premier Badminton League match at the Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on Sunday. Languishing at the bottom of the table Hyderabad Hunters produced an exhilarating performance and surged to the top of the standings with a complete drubbing of Awadhe Warriors 5-0 (6(-1) on points).

AS IT HAPPENED

This was the joint biggest win by a team in the ongoing PBL season three.

It needed a team effort and extra motivation and Hyderabad Hunters wasn't short of either. The much hyped trump matches between Kidambi Srikanth-B. Sai Praneeth and Carolina Marin-Saina Nehwal went on to be one-sided affairs as Praneeth and Marin steamrollered their opponents in style. 

The Hunters got off to a good start, something that it desperately needed to get the momentum rolling, and Marcus Kido and Yoo Yeon Seong gave just that when they bounced back from a game down to beat Awadhe Warriors' Or Chin Chung and Tang Chun Man 14-15, 15-6, 15-11. The Hyderabad duo were sharp in their returns and lethal with their smashes and made sure the initial hiccup was watered down heavily. 

The excitement grew with every passing minute and when Parupalli Kashyap lost to Lee Hyun Il in a gruelling three-setter (13-15, 15-9 15-14), the sparse holiday crowd burst into a trance welcoming Srikanth and Praneeth.

Srikanth started off with some initial burst of points and looked like he got into his groove when he sent a couple of smashes down the line to take an early lead. He even led Praneeth by one point at the mid-game interval but Praneeth controlled the rest of the game with immaculate precision and coupled with a plethora of unforced errors by Srikanth, Praneeth emerged on top in the first game at 15-10.

The changeover seemed to have helped Praneeth as he was unstoppable and raced to an 8-0 lead. The way he leaped and unleashed a barrage of smashes on Srikanth gave a glimpse of Praneeth’s mindset as he was in no mood to relent. Srikanth dented his chances by finding the net from a close range too many times and going wide on what could have been delightful winners. Even though, Srikanth tried to bounce back to reduce the deficit it was too little too late for him as Praneeth won 15-10.

In the second trump match of the day, which was a damp squib in terms of excitement, Carolina Marin rubbed salt on to the Warriors’ wounds when she beat reigning Indian national champion Saina Nehwal 15-5, 15-7.

Marin was in good touch and before Saina could read her opponent’s game, the Olympic gold medallist raced to an 8-2 lead. The assault was compounded as Marin repeatedly attacked Saina on her body and mixed it up with good winners too. Saina looked completely off colour as her timing was haywire too. In just about 20 minutes, the Spaniard completed her assault on the Indian that had a generous mix of winners and dribbles.

Earlier, Kashyap started off on a rousing note in what was the only positive for Awadhe Warriors on a dreadful night. Kashyap used the width of the court well and sent down some good forehand winners, which were too hot for Lee Hyun. Kashyap was particularly good with his net play but when Lee Hyun went long at the baseline, Awadhe Warriors looked to have the upper hand by winning the first game 15-13.

Lee came back tad stronger in the second game and with Kashyap committing some unforced errors, Awadhe Warriors lost the plot in dramatic fashion. With an 8-3 lead at the interval, Lee looked confident by timing his shots excellently down the line and mixing it up with some drop shots too. After the break, Kashyap won three points on the trot to reduce the lead but Lee maintained his stronghold on the game and denied to squander the early lead to force the decider.

The decider ultimately went down to the wire not before Lee lost his touch from a dominating 14-8 to 14-14. Kashyap drew level when Lee made five unforced errors on the trot but the golden point went in the 37-year-old's favour when he executed a drop shot to perfection.

In the final match of the day, P. Z. Bernadeth and S. Rankireddy beat H. Setiawan/C. Pedersen 15-9, 15-9 to complete a dominant performance for Hyderabad Hunters.