Chennai Smashers needed to win all the five matches of the tie against Bengaluru Raptors in the final league match to knock out its opponent and qualify for the semifinals, but its hopes ended when trump card Parupalli Kashyap lost to Sai Praneeth 15-12, 15-12 in the fourth edition of Premier Badminton League at Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.
With the semifinal clashes being decided with a draw of lots — the top two teams picking the chits to decide their opponents — it didn’t matter whether Bengaluru Raptors finished third or fourth.
After Kashyap went down to Sai Praneeth, it mattered little who won the next three matches. At the most, it gave Raptors an opportunity to gain valuable match practice ahead of the semifinals. Bengaluru Raptors won the tie 3-2 despite losing three matches, finishing third in the table with 21 points. Chennai stayed put at the sixth spot.
AS IT HAPPENED | Bengaluru Raptors 3-2 Chennai Smashers
Chris Adcock and Or Chin Chung, playing the opening match against World No. 9 Indonesian pair of Mohammed Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, withstood the pressure of a first-game loss to register a 14-15, 15-9, 15-11 win and keep Chennai Smashers in the hunt. But Sai Praneeth put paid to Smashers’ hopes with a 15-11, 15-12 win over Kashyap in the second match of the tie.
Sai Praneeth, whose only loss in the tournament came against Sourabh Verma of Ahmedabad Smash Masters, came out all guns blazing to put Kashyap under the pump from the word go. With flatter smashes and sharp angled drive shots from the net, Sai Praneeth enthralled the home crowd.
With two points at stake, Kashyap, however, tried his best to match up to his fellow Hyderabadi with his own forceful smashes in the mid-court. The two played some delightful rallies, but Sai Praneeth used his backhand, normally a defensive stance, to telling effect and seal victory. At the end of the match, Kashyap gave his good friend a nod of approval and an appreciative pat in the back for a job well done.
Kidambi Srikanth then overcame a mid-match slump in the second game to register a predominantly straightforward win over Malaysia’s Wei Feng Chong 15-10, 15-10. After 7-3 in the second game, Srikanth hit two back-to-back shots wide and committed a net error to help the Malaysian reduce the deficit. He snapped the streak after a lucky net touch forced his opponent to make a weak return, which he dutifully returned for a win at 8-7. He then cleaned up his act, stuck to basic textbook shots to clinch a 15-10, 15-10 win and keep his unbeaten streak in the league in tact.
On Thursday, Raptors’ will also take heart from the performance of Vu Thi Thrang against World No. 9 Sung Ji Hyun. The Vietnamese player, ranked 59 in the world, played her best match of the tournament so far, pushing her higher ranked opponent to work hard for a win.
With the crowd firmly behind the home team player and shouting out instructions from all sides, an animated Vu Thi saved a match point by hitting a smash right on the line. With Sung overshooting the distance in her attempt, a pumped-up Vu Thi pocketed the second game. Sung hit more powerful smashes and cut down on her errors to win the match 15-10, 14-15, 15-10 for Chennai Smashers.
In the final match of the day, Chennai Smashers’ mixed doubles pair of Chris and Gabrielle Adcock defeated their England compatriots Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith 15-8, 12-15, 15-4.