Backed by wins from Olympic champion Carolina Marin and national champion Sameer Verma, the Hyderabad Hunters defeated Delhi Acers to enter the semi-finals of the Premier Badminton League in New Delhi on Thursday. The Hunters earned four wins from five matches to defeat the Acers 5-2 at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.
Saina Nehwal's Awadhe Warriors were the first to qualify for the knockout stage and Chennai Smashers and Mumbai Rockets also had joined them in the semi-finals but the door was still open for Hyderabad and they grabbed the last spot after toppling Bengaluru Blasters on Thursday.
Needing three points to earn a place at the semifinals, the Hyderabad team was led by Sameer, mixed doubles pair of Chau Wah Hoi and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and two-time world champion Marin, who took them home after winning their respective matches.
In the semifinals, it will be a mouth-watering contest when Saina's Awadhe Warriors will fight against P V Sindhu's Chennai Smashers while Hyderabad will face off Mumbai Rockets in a double header at the Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi on Friday.
Starting the proceedings, Sameer fought back from a game down to snuff aside the challenge thrown by young Siril Verma, a silver medallist at 2015 World Junior championship, 8-11 11-3 11-2 in the opening match.
Hong Kong's Chau Wah and India's Satwiksairaj then dished out a superlative performance to outclass the famed pair of Jwala Gutta and Russia's Vladimir Ivanov 11-3 11-4 in mixed doubles to make it 2-0 in favour of Hyderabad Hunters.
China Open champion and World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen then brought Delhi back into the contest with a dominating 11-5 11-7 win over 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Rajiv Ouseph of England in their Trump Match to level the score 2-2.
European champion and 2015 All England winner Marin then took the court in Hyderabad's Trump Match amid huge cheers and and sealed the match for her team with a hard-fought 15-14 11-4 victory over World No 16 Thai Nitchaon Jindapol.
In the inconsequential fifth rubber, Boon Heong Tan and Wee Kiong Tan then defeated Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov 11-9 13-11 to complete the proceedings.
In an edge-of-the-seat contest, Jindapol showed tremendous grit as she matched Marin stroke by stroke after trailing 1-6 initially at first interval of the opening game.
The Thai shuttler made it 8-8 when Marin hit the nets. What came next was a tooth and nail battle as neither gave an edge to the other as they moved neck and neck till 14-14 when Marin went for the baseline and made it by a whisker to grab the opening game.
The second game too started with the same intensity but Marin ensured she had the advantage again as she led 6-4 at the interval. After the break, the Spaniard continued her good run and sealed the issue with five straight points.
Earlier, it was an exciting opening match as Sameer and young Siril took the court and engaged in a fierce rally.
After a close contest, Sameer managed a 6-3 lead at the break. But Siril came back with three successive points after the interval to level par and then eventually won the opening game with Sameer committing too many unforced errors.
Sameer zoomed to a 6-1 lead at the Interval of second game after producing a torrent of smashes which the 17-year old from Telangana had no answers. Siril tried to gain a few points buy Sameer held his fort to bounce back into the match.
In the decider, Sameer continued his domination to once again gain a 6-1 advantage. Nothing changed much after the interval as Sameer smashed his way to seal the match comfortably.
(With inputs from PTI)