Led by their icon player Saina Nehwal, the Hyderabad Hotshots won the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) title at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) here on Saturday. (Saina Nehwal says IBL will catch up with IPL, predicts tougher one in 2014)
The Hotshots beat the Lucknow-based Awadhe Warriors 3-1 in the final to clinch world's richest badminton league trophy. (Pics)
Saina, the duo of Goh V. Shem and Lim Khim Wah, and Ajay Jayaram won their respective matches to bring home the title. (IBL Final - As it happened)
Kidambi Srikanth gave the Awadhe Warriors the perfect start by pulling off an upset win in the men's singles over Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk to give his team a 1-0 lead. The Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold winner scored 20 winners to romp home 21-12, 21-20 against his World No.19 opponent.
"The beginning was tough but after the first interval I was able to increase the gap. This gave me confidence to play my game. I remained focused and even though Tanongsak gave me great fight in the second game, the match went in our favour," said Srikanth after his match.
However, the course changed its route after Hotshots' Saina defeated Warriors' icon P.V. Sindhu in the women's singles for the second time in the tournament. Unlike the first match between the two top-10 players in New Delhi, Sindhu could not offer much of a fight to her city mate and lost 15-21, 7-21 in 36 minutes, levelling the score 1-1.
"I would like to thank my fans who have supported me all through. Sindhu played really well and gave her best but I managed to outwit her. I have been really lucky during the entire league to have won all my matches," said Saina, who was later declared the player of the tournament. This was World No.4 Saina's seventh win. She remained undefeated in the tournament.
Experienced shuttlers Mathias Boe and Markis Kido of the Warriors were the favourites for the men's doubles tie but Malaysian duo of Goh and Lim came out on top to win in three games and give the advantage to Hotshots 2-1. The Malaysians won 21-14, 13-21, 11-4.
"The first game was smooth. In the second game, Boe and Kido tried to be in the front all the time and both of us had to fasten our movements. We maintained our calm in the third game and the swift shots helped us win the match," said Goh.
In a must-win match for the Warriors, R.M.V. Gurusaidutt took off well against Hotshots' Jayaram and sealed the first game. But Jayaram, who hails from Mumbai, came back in fantastic fashion from being down and out in the second game to overtake Guru and then push the match into the decider.
Both the shuttlers gave their best in the third game and were 5-all when Jayaram found legs to close the game, match and tie 10-21, 21-17, 11-7 in the favour of the Hotshots, who bagged Rs.3.25 crores.