PBL: Hyderabad hunts down Blasters to clinch title

The franchise, led by Carolina Marin, won the final 4-3 with the mixed doubles game between Satwiksairaj/Zebadiah and Kim Sa Rang/Sikki Reddy being the decider.

The victorious Hyderabad Hunters team with the Premier Badminton League trophy in Hyderabad on Sunday.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

 

Seventeen-year-old Satwiksairaj Ranikreddy didn’t let the pressure of a final get to him as he helped Hyderabad Hunters win the third season of the Premier Badminton League in front of a packed crowd at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday.

Playing the mixed doubles with Pia Zebadiah, the local boy took charge in the game and was majorly responsible for Hyderbad’s 15-11, 15-12 win in the mixed doubles game against Bengaluru Blasters’ Kim Sa Rang and Sikki Reddy.

Sa Rang, playing his fourth match in two days, did his best to stretch the match into a third game, but Hyderabad won six consecutive points after trailing 8-10 in the second game to take the match away.

In the first match of the day, Sa Rang had paired up with his now trusted partner Mathias Boe to ease to a simple and straightforward 15-9, 15-10 win over Markis Kido and Yoo Yeon Seong.

Skipper shows the way

Captain Carolina Marin took the match into the decider against a fighting Kirsty Gilmour.

Gilmour dived face flat, kept guard at the net with a hawk-like focus and jumped around in anticipation of returns. Marin, however, was just a little better against the hard-working Scot.

Watched by good friend and on-court rival P.V. Sindhu, Marin kept her cool after a late charge from Gilmour to win the match 15-8, 15-14 and take the final into a deciding fifth match. The scores were level 3-3 at the end of the fourth match.

Captain Carolina Marin took the match into the decider against a fighting Kirsty Gilmour.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

 

Marin was unhappy with her semifinal game against Sung Ji Hyun. She won the match, but it was an error-filled one from the Olympic champion.

The World No. 4 played a largely error-free game to coast to an easy 15-8 win in the first game. Just when one assumed Marin would close out the match in no time, after leading 8-4 at mid-game interval, Gilmour won six straight points, aided by unforced errors from Marin.

She was more successful when she kept Marin at the net, but the Olympic champion soon wriggled out and closed out the match by winning the golden point.

In the do-or-die match for Bengaluru Blasters, trump card Viktor Axelsen showed no signs of pressure and eased into a 15-8, 15-10 win over Hyderabad Hunter’s Sai Praneeth.

Viktor Axelsen in action against Sai Praneeth.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

 

When a World No. 1, standing tall at 6’4’’, sends down menacing smashes, there is little you can do to put up a fight. When he backs such smashes with a clever net game and does it extremely well, the opponent is a goner.

The Hyun effect

Earlier in the day, Subhankar Dey, a surprise choice for the final, was up against Hyderabad’s trump card Lee Hyun II. Experienced showed as the South Korean pocketed the match in straight games 15-17, 15-13 to give Hyderabad a 2-1 lead.

Though Hyun slackened a wee bit and committed back-to-back errors to help Subhankar tie the scores in the second game at 13-13, it never looked like a change in the momentum.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

 

After a largely one-sided opening game, Subhankar showed more will power to fight in the second. He began with a led 3-0 lead, getting the third point with a cross-court smash. Though Dey had good court coverage, Hyun was too powerful with his shots. Even his net-game was to the point. It didn’t take much time for the World No. 18 to recover to 4-4.

Hyun, at this point, raised his game even further, hitting forehand smashes one after the other. At one point, Subhankar had his hand up on his head, clueless how to bridge the growing gap between the two.

Subhankar, just by his sheer commitment to put the shuttle back, earned some valuable points, but he still had miles to go before he could match up to the standards of the Korean. Be it the backhand flicks from the back court or the drops from the net, the Hyderabad Hunters player showed his superiority on the court.

Though Hyun slackened a wee bit and committed back-to-back errors to help Subhankar tie the scores in the second game at 13-13, it never looked like a change in the momentum. The win in the trump match, a formality, came just a minute later as a return from Subhankar caught the net. The Bengaluru Blasters dropped the racquet and looked distraught after failing to capitalise on an opportunity of a lifetime.