Mumbai Rockets recovered from an early loss and defeated Awadhe Warriors 5-2 in a Premier Badminton League tie in Pune on Monday.
Anders Antonsen and Sameer Verma's hard-earned victories in men’s singles gave Mumbai Rockets an unassailable 4-2 lead after four matches. Kim Gi Jung and Pia Bernadeth's win against Marcus Christiansen and Ashwini Ponnappa in the mixed doubles match was a cherry on top of the cake which sealed the tie 5-2.
Awadhe fielded Shreyanshi Pardeshi in the opening women’s singles against superior Beiwen Zhang and the match went according to script. The China-born, Singapore-groomed player, representing USA swatted everything in her range to ease past her rival in straight games. Mumbai banked on the men’s doubles pair of Kim Gi Sung & Lee Yong Dae for Trump Match points and the lethal Koreans hammered the Taipei-India duo of Yang Lee and M.R. Arjun into submission.
With the tie score locked at 2-2, the stage was set for the singles specialists to win it for their teams, in front of a rather quiet crowd. The silence between points and empty seats on the night were in contrast to the beating drums and a packed house on Sunday when Pune 7 Aces faced Bengaluru Raptors.
The emerging face of Denmark badminton Anders Antonsen must have felt the absence of a buzz. Facing a defensive-minded Korean rival, Son Wan Ho, the former European junior champion lost the first game. He seemed to wake up midway throught the second and force the match into the decider.
Awadhe Warriors' Ho looked sharper in the third game but errors let him down at the finish, going down by a point. On match point, Antonsen tapped a service return into the backcourt and it went soaring over and beyond the Korean’s reach.
Awadhe's Lee Dong Keun proved a tough opponent, even for the highly-ranked Sameer Verma. The Korean covered the court effortlessly with his smooth movements and sent his Indian opponent scrambling to the corners. Despite losing the first game, Keun went all-out in the second to draw level. The two were at their sharpest in the decider, alternating between delicate play at the net and fierce smashes from various angles. Long rallies, net-hugging returns and deceptive drops marked each point before the Indian emerged victorious at 15-11 in the third.