PBL: Sindhu defeats Saina, Chennai and Mumbai in final

P. V. Sindhu defeated Awadhe Warriors' Saina Nehwal 11-7, 11-8 to help Chennai Smashers secure its place in the final of the Premier Badminton League. Chennai will play Mumbai Rockets in the final.

P. V. Sindhu’s match against Saina Nehwal became a must-win encounter for Chennai Smashers since it trailed 1-2 before the fourth rubber of the tie.   -  R. V. Moorthy

More than the outcome of the ‘war’ between two fiercely competitors in Chennai Smashers and Awadhe Warriors for a place in the final of the Premier Badminton League, it was the ‘battle’ involving P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal that held the interest of everyone watching the on-court action at the Siri Fort Stadium and on the television screens.

In 27 minutes, Sindhu justified the expectations based for form and fitness. Even before the first shuttle was stroked, Sindhu showed the confidence by opting to play ‘trump’ against her more illustrious rival. No doubt, it was a grudge-match and Sindhu handled the pressure better to come out stronger.

For the record, Chennai won 4-1 and will take on Mumbai Rockets in the final. Rockets’ caused a sensation by taking an unsurpassable 3 to -1 lead against Hyderabad Hunters after winning the two ‘trump’ matches. Sung Ji Hyun upstaged World and Olympic champion Carolina Marin, who played trump, and H. S. Pronnoy kept his winning run intact by beating Sameer Verma 11-8, 15-13 to end the tie.

Saina, who kept reminding her fans over the past week that she was only about “60 percent fit” following her recovery from a knee-surgery, showed no signs of any great discomfort. She moved well and often got into positions to execute some well-measured half-smashes and cross-courts.

The rallies going up to 48 or 32 or 28 strokes were an ample indication that Saina’s fitness did not have a great impact on the outcome. Even Sindhu felt that the players’ fitness was “not a factor” in the match.

Sindhu won the match’s longest rally – 48 strokes – to lead 7-5 immediately after the mid-game interval in the second game. After Saina produced an awe-inspiring cross-court smash to make it 8-9, Sindhu returned the compliment in a similar manner to keep her nose up and ahead.

Though Saina never led in the second game, she did threaten Sindhu’s dominance by taking three straight points to make it 8-9 before her rival’s two forehand cross-court returns - one softer than the other - settled the contest.

‘Confident’

“Saina has been moving well and I don’t think her fitness was a factor (in the match). We both couldn’t take a single point easy. Knowing that she is so good at the net, I tried to keep her away from the net. Luckily, the shuttle-speed was consistent and ‘drift’ was not an issue. I was confident of doing well and when the team wanted me to play the ‘trump’ match, I readily agreed,” revealed an understandably chirpy and excited Sindhu, reflecting her level of confidence despite the pressure of beating Saina, deemed to be far from 100 per cent fit.

After all, Sindhu’s match became a must-win encounter for Chennai since it trailed 1-2 before the fourth rubber of the tie.

On her part, Saina pointed to Sindhu’s fitness and said, “Of course, Sindhu has had a great 2016 and is very, very fit. I’ve just had two weeks on court. My movements were slugging. Once I go back (to Bangalore), I’ll be working a lot on it.”

This mega-clash pushed into background the straight-game victories of Sindhu’s team-mate P. Kashyap over Wing Ki Vincent Wong and Awadhe Warriors’ K. Srikanth over Tommy Sugiarto.

In fact, it was a serious setback for Chennai when its previously undefeated mixed doubles pair of Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock lost the opener to a higher-ranked Savitree Amitrapal and Bodin Isara.

The results:

Semifinals: (‘T’ indicates trump):

Chennai Smashers beat Awadhe Warriors 4-1 (Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock 11-9, 8-11, 5-11; P. Kashyap bt Wing Ki Vincent Wong 11-4, 11-6; Tommy Sugiarto lost to K. Srikanth 12-14, 7-11; (‘T’) P. V. Sindhu bt Saina Nehwal 11-7, 11-8; Chris Adcock and Mads Pieler Kolding bt (‘T’) V. Shem Goh and Markis Kido 11-3, 12-10).

Mumbai Rockets beat Hyderabad Hunters 3 to -1 (Sung Ji Hyun bt Carolina Marin (‘T’) 6-11, 11-6, 11-5; H. S. Prannoy ('T') bt Sameer Verma 11-8, 15-13).