Indian Badminton League final preview: Saina Nehwal-led Hyderabad Hotshots take on PV Sindhu's Awadhe Warriors
Saina Nehwal-led Hyderabad Hotshots beat the Pune Pistons in the semis, while PV Sindhu's Awadhe Warriors downed Mumbai Masters on Thursday to make the summit clash.
Spearheaded by women's world no. 4 Saina Nehwal, Hyderabad Hotshots would be determined to stamp their authority once again on the world no. 10 Pusarla Venkata Sindhu-led Awadhe Warriors in what promises to be a rip-roaring Indian Badminton League (IBL) finals in Mumbai on Saturday.
Not only reputations and the overall championship are at stake, but also a big prize money in the USD 1 million league that reaches its climax at the NSCI's newly built air-conditioned indoor stadium.
Hotshots have relied a lot on their icon player Saina's show and the shuttle queen has not disappointed so far, winning all her six singles matches thus far.
The crowd would be eagerly looking forward to the second match in the finale between Saina and her challenger Sindhu, the icon for her team.
The 19-year-old Sindhu paved the way for Warriors' entry into the final by winning her match on Thursday in the semifinal against Mumbai Masters' top woman player and thrice All-England champion Tine Baun in Bangalore.
In their first encounter of the tournament, on the Independence Day in the Capital, Saina blew her Hyderabad city rival and World Badminton Championship bronze medal winner Sindhu off the court with a thumping 21-9 21-8 victory.
The taller Sindhu would thus be eager to avenge that defeat and the contrast in style of play of the two players, with the faster and fitter Saina pitted against her younger rival with superior reach, should enthrall the spectators in the summit contest.
Even if Saina repeats her domination of Sindhu, the important issue is whether the Warriors have sufficient depth to win other matches and turn the tables on the confident-looking Hotshots.
The Hyderabad side ousted the Pune Pistons 3-0 in the first semifinal at Hyderabad two nights ago.
It's more or less certain that Hotshots would be fielding their main men's singles player Thai world no. 19 S Tanongsak, a semifinalist at the All England championships in March, to provide them the flying start. He did so at Delhi a fortnight ago by overpowering RMV Gurusaidutt of Warriors in three games.
A lot would also depend on the performance of Hotshots' second singles player and world no. 24 Ajay Jayaram who lost to K Srikanth on August 15 in the round robin stage.
If Jayaram, who had shocked world no. 5 Nguyen Tien Minh of Pune Pistons earlier in the league, could ramp up his game against Srikanth, the Thai Open winner, it would increase the Hotshots' chances enormously.
The men's doubles encounter could be tricky with both the teams having some top specialists in their ranks.
An absorbing clash is on cards with the Danish-Indonesian pair of Mathias Boe and Markis Kido for Warriors' lined up against the Malaysian duo of Shem Goh and Khim Wah Lim, the world's no.16 pair, for Hotshots in the men's doubles contest, the third match of the evening.
Goh and Wah Lim won their match easily to help Hotshots wrap up the semifinal against Pistons early, while Boe and Kido did likewise in the semifinal against Masters last night.
Kido later teamed up with his sister Pia Bernadeth, who takes part in international tournaments regularly and is ranked ninth in the world in mixed doubles, to deliver the knockout blow on Masters' German-Danish pair of Ivanov-Baun last night.
"I and my sister are thrilled to win this match. First game was very close and we had to play some soft shots to win points in the second game. Both of us are ready to give a strong fight to Hyderabad Hotshots in the finals," said Indonesian Kido after the guiding Warriors past Masters.
"My earlier match along with Mathias Boe was also very exciting. We had very good understanding which helped give us a lead," he added.
Kido, the man of that second semifinal clash, could again play a crucial role for the Warriors' on Saturday with his expertise.