PBL: Rockets power past Warriors in opening encounter

The opening salvos from two of India’s young guns promised much in the inaugural match of the Premier Badminton League. Gurusaidutt and Sai Praneeth fought tooth and nail before the first game was decided on the sudden-death tie-breaker point in favour of the former ranked 14 places higher in the Badminton World Federation list.

Gurusai Dutt of Mumbai Rockets in action aganist Sai Praneeth of Awadhe Warriors in the Premier Badminton League at NSCI in mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre

The opening salvos from two of India’s young guns promised much in the inaugural match of the Premier Badminton League. Gurusaidutt and Sai Praneeth fought tooth and nail before the first game was decided on the sudden-death tie-breaker point in favour of the former ranked 14 places higher in the Badminton World Federation list.

It was a fitting start to the league once after the city’s elite, occupying vantage points at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI), applauded the dance and musical scores by bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez and music composers, Salim and Sulaiman.

If the siblings’ Chak De! India song that brought an end to the entertainment part of the evening was heavy-duty stuff, the Gurusaidutt-Praneeth contest began the on-court action.

The two went for their shots before Praneeth held his nerve to take the first game 15-14. It was a matter of conjecture as to who would have won if the game was set to 21 points. The two tried to outwit each other with deft play rather than try to smash the shuttle down which, of course, they did when opportunities came their way.

The home team — Mumbai Rockets —was down by a game, but Gurusaidutt did not yield in the second and third; he outsmarted his opponent, winning points showing his craft at the net, and from the mid- and back-court.

After pocketing the first match, Rockets had an easy time with the doubles pair of Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Russian Vladimir Ivanov proving strong for the Trump Match-nominated Warriors pair of Chinese Cai Yun and Indonesian Hendra Gunawan. Ruthvika Shivani Gadde then got the better of junior Gummadi Vrushali in straight games to clinch the tie for Rockets.

Last year, Denmark’s Boe and Carsten Mogensen won the European championship, All England title, India GP Gold event and Ivanov teamed up with Ivan Sozonov to emerge as one of the top men’s doubles pairs in the world.

It did not take much time for Boe and Ivanov to outplay the Warriors’ Asian combination.

Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk won a close match for Warriors against H.S. Prannoy, nominated for the Trump Match. The Thai neutralised the negative points in men’s doubles, but it was not good enough to stop the home team from winning the tie.

Saina sits out

Saina Nehwal chose to sit out the Awadhe Warriors women’s singles match against Mumbai Rockets in order to give sufficient time for her Achilles tendon injury to heal.

Talking to STAR Sports’ Aparna Popat before the start of the inaugural PBL match at the NSCI here on Saturday, Saina said her foot injury was quite serious and she didn’t want to aggravate it.

“This is an Olympic year and I want to play safe. I am on the verge of recovery.

“There are five matches to play in the league,’ she said before appearing on the court for the toss.

Her decision to watch the match from the sidelines gave an opportunity for G. Vrushali to play against Ruthvika Shivani Gadde.

The results: Mumbai Rockets bt Awadhe Warriors 3-2 (points 2-1) (R.M.V. Gurusaidutt 14-15, 15-10, 15-8 (1/0); Mathias Boe & Vladimir Ivanov bt Cai Yun & Hendra Gunawan 15-11,15-11 (2/-1); Ruthivika Shivani Gadde bt Gummadi Vrushali 15-13, 15-10 (3/-1).

H.S. Prannoy lost to Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 12-15, 15-14, 14-15 (2/0); Vladimir Ivanov & Kamilla Juhl lost to Bodin Issara & Christinna Pedersen 9-15, 15-14, 14-15 (2/1).