PBL: Saina guides Warriors win over Blasters

Up 2-1 on match score, Saina Nehwal beat Cheung Ngan Yi, World No. 19, in Awadhe Warriors' trump fixture.

Saina Nehwal dragged Cheung Ngan Yi to all corners of the court, and went on to clinch the rubber.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Saina Nehwal edged out Cheung Ngan Yi 9-11, 11-5, 11-5 in a crucial rubber to guide Awadhe Warriors past Bengaluru Blasters in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) here on Monday. The victory took Awadhe to the top of the points table, and all but guaranteed the franchise a spot in the semifinal.

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Up 2-1 on match score, Saina took on Yi (World No. 19), in Awadhe’s trump fixture. Yi startled her favoured opponent by taking the first game 11-9. Saina then clawed her way back, on the back of some delicate net play. The Indian dragged Yi to all corners of the court, and went on to clinch the rubber. The two points gained by Saina gave Awadhe an unassailable 4-1 lead.

In the opening men’s singles encounter, Bengaluru’s Sourabh Varma (World No. 44) put on a commendable show. Varma upset World No. 17 Vincent Wong 13-11, 11-7 to give the home side the perfect start.

Awadhe pulled level in the next outing, with A. Savitree and Bodin Isara taking out Sung Hyun-Sikki Reddy in the mixed doubles.

Bengaluru was let down by its star shuttler Viktor Axelsen. The Olympic bronze medallist was toppled by K. Srikanth in straight games. The two players regularly engaged in a battle of drop shots, and more often than not, it was Srikanth who came out on top. On match point, Srikanth closed it out with a stinging down-the-line smash, relegating Axelsen to his second straight defeat in this event.

Bengaluru, meanwhile, slipped to a fourth consecutive match loss.