Deafening roars greeted every point the doubles pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan won. Stakes were high as a spectacular meltdown from Sai Praneeth in the fourth match had pushed the tie to a decider, but the Indonesian former world No. 1 pair held their nerve to register a 15-13, 15-10 victory over South Korea’s Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae and help home team Bengaluru Raptors clinch the fourth edition of Premier Badminton League at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.
For Bengaluru, Kidambi Srikanth and Vu Thi Trang came up with straight-games victories over Anders Antonsen and Shriyanshi Pardeshi respectively.
Mumbai Rockets, after a 5-0 loss in a league tie against Bengaluru at the same venue earlier this week, placed its bet on the pair who won their only match of the night. Pia Zebadiah Bernadet of Indonesia and Kim Gi Jung of South Korea beat the English pair of Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis 15-14, 15-13 on that occasion. The gamble paid off as the Mumbai pair pipped Raptors 15-8, 15-14 in the opening match of the final.
Marcus and Lauren were guilty of making numerous unforced errors. Kim and Pia were not invincible as such and didn’t play extraordinary badminton. They were guilty of committing an equally high number of errors, but somewhat fortunately, the errors of their opponents helped. A handful of smashes from Kim and a few inspired rally-winning shots from Pia helped them emerge the winner in the opening clash.
— Srikanth smashes to victory —
Smash to the right, smash to the left, smash at the player; that’s all Srikanth had in mind in the early exchanges against Denmark’s up and coming Anders Antonsen. The 25-year-old Indian took apart the Dane, who struggled to even make contact with Srikanth’s searing smashes.
If the point went to a rally, Kidambi was adept with changing course at will to tap in a winner or play a clever drop. To make matters worse, Antonsen, who put up an inspired performance to defeat Lee Hyun-Il only the previous night, seemed callous with his approach to the net. Antonsen’s attempt at a tap, a scoop or a net smash often caught the net, costing him valuable points against the Indian who was already looking quite imperious with his game. In the end, it was a straightforward 15-7, 15-10 victory for the Indian.
Instead of placing its faith on one of its best-performing men’s singles players Srikanth or Sai Praneeth, Bengaluru chose Vietnam’s Vu Thi Trang as its trump player again. Rather than playing to its strength, the home side picked on Mumbai’s weakness again. It placed its bet against World No. 202 Shriyanshi Pardeshi.
Shriyanshi, with the confidence of having already snatched a game from Vu Thi in the previous outing, went all out to prove a point this time. She kept pace with the Vietnamese World No. 59 until the mid-break in both the games, but her inexperience showed as she failed to put away easy winners and sustain her game in the second half. She fell from 8-6 to 15-7 in the first game. In the second game, she stumbled from 8-7 to 15-9. Mumbai would have walked away the champion had Shriyanshi won that match.
— Sameer pips Sai Praneeth —
It proved to be the right thing to do as an unpredictable Sai Praneeth slumped to a loss after toying with Sameer Verma in the first game.
“If I have the confidence, I can play any shot and win against anyone,” B. Sai Praneeth had quipped a day before the final. Save for the loss against Sourabh Verma in his first match this season, the 26-year-old had been unstoppable going into the final, including a dominant win against Syed Modi International champion Sameer earlier in the week.
Sai Praneeth carried that confidence into the first game, ripping apart Sameer with an array of brilliant strokes to take the first game 15-7. Bengaluru could almost taste title victory. But all it took was a couple of good points from Sameer in the second game for Sai Praneeth to begin doubting his skills. Errors began piling. Sameer Verma, a solid defensive player, began dictating terms. He angled in an half-court dipping winner and followed it up with a jump smash to dent Sai Praneeth’s confidence a little further. After a close 12-15 loss in the second game, Sai Praneeth collapsed spectacularly in the third to give Sameer a 7-15, 15-12, 15-3 victory and push the tie to the decider.
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