Mumbai: Hyderabad Hotshots, spearheaded by Indian badminton icon Saina Nehwal, brought down the high flying, unbeaten Pune Pistons with a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the Indian Badminton League here on Monday.
The thumping victory also powered the Hotshots to the top of the league table with 11 points to their credit while leaving Pistons in second place with 9. (Hotshots vs Pistons as it happened)
Saina provided the early spark to the Hotshots campaign against the league toppers by clinching the high quality women's singles clash against her long-time German rival Juliane Schenk in a battle between two of the world's top five players.
Egged on by the partisan crowd chanting "Saina Saina", the Indian world number four downed world number three Schenk 17-21 21-19 11-6 in 59 minutes after her compatriot and teammate Ajay Jayram shocked Vietnamese world number five rival Tien Minh Nguyen 21-19 21-8 in the opening men's singles encounter in just 40 minutes. (In pics: Hotshots top table)
Later, the Malaysian world number two pair of V Shem Goh and Wah Lim Khah subdued the challenge of India's seasoned pair Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar 21-19 and 21-16 to give the Hotshots a winning lead in the best of five clash, their second victory in three ties, thus ensuring the Pistons' first defeat in the tournament.
Thailand's S Tanongsak, a semi finalist at All-England made it 4-0 for the Hotshots with a straight-game victory over Pistons' Saurabh Varma. The left hander won 21-19 21-18 in the second men's singles match.
Pistons got a consolation victory as well as one point from the tie when their mixed doubles combination of Joaquim Fischer Nielsen and Ashwini Ponnappa downed Hotshots' pair of V Shem Goh and Pradnya Gadre 21-11 21-14.
The match of the evening was the high-octane encounter between Saina and Schenk that the Indian won after a tough fight to take her win-loss record against the German to 9-4.
The clash had all the makings of a very good match between two of the world's top women shuttlers and enthralled the crowd, both players giving their best especially in the second game that stretched to 27 minutes.
Saina started on the wrong note against Schenk by making a number of unforced errors in the opening game which she lost quite tamely.
Saina lead the second game 11-8 before it became 18-all and then 19-all. Saina leveled the match with a smash.
Having the momentum, Saina jumped to a 4-1 lead in the decider and led 7-5 at the break in the final game after a series of long and exciting rallies. She held her nerve while Schenk committed errors and clinched the tie when the German hit long.
This was the German's first loss in three games in the IBL while Saina has won all her three matches thus far.
"We have always had some great matches and today too it was a very good contest. She played very well," said Saina after the victory.