Saina Nehwal-led Awadhe Warriors came out with another stupendous performance to beat hosts Hyderabad Hunters 4-3 at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium and more or less seal their place in the semi-finals of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) in Hyderabad on Saturday. (Latest Badminton News)
The Warriors clinched the first three matches to pocket four points but the hosts came back well to win the next two and kitty three points. This is the Warriors' third victory on the trot, having lost the opener, while the Hunters have now lost two out of the three ties played.
Captain Saina did not play the opening women's singles contest. But that did not let the Warriors down as Gummadi Vrushali gave them a fantastic start by beating Supanida Katethong of the Hunters 15-7, 15-11 to take one point for the visitors.
"Great win for our team to start the tie. Supanida is a highly qualified player and it gives you a lot of confidence after beating a player of such calibre. A win in the opening match is always a huge boost for the rest of the players. I am happy I won," Vrushali said.
Then Warriors' top men's doubles pair of Cai Yun and Bodin Issara also defeated the experienced combine of Markis Kido and Carsten Mogensen 15-10, 15-12 in what was the visitors' Trump Match, giving the Lucknow-based team a 3-0 lead.
"We were quite certain about our win and hence were confident to play the Trump game for our team. Vrushali started the day with a comfortable win over our opponents," said Cai.
Reigning Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap of the Hunters was expected to defeat compatriot and friend B. Sai Praneeth of the Warriors in the first men's singles. Kashyap even won the first game 15-6 but Sai turned the tables on his senior colleague by drubbing him 15-8, 15-5 in the next two games to clinch the contest and tie for the Warriors.
"I cannot express my joy as we all know Kashyap is a hard nut to crack. I committed a lot of mistakes in the first game and eventually lost. But in the second and third games I got the better of him. I am happy that our team is not losing focus even in Saina's absence," said a joyful Sai.
At 4-0, the tie was beyond reach for the Hunters but still they had to accumulate as many points as possible in their quest for the semi-finals.
The legendary Lee Chong Wei stepped on to the court for the Hunters' Trump Match and he did not disappoint this time, taking two points for the hosts by beating exuberant Thai left-hander Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 15-5, 15-9 for his first victory in three matches in the six-team tournament.
"A tough day for our team. We had already lost the tie but I won the Trump game which will close the points gap," said Lee.
Hosts' Jwala Gutta and Markis Kido then earned a thrilling come-from-behind victory to beat Christinna Pedersen and Bodin Issara 12-15, 14-15 in the final mixed doubles contest to bag one more point for the Hunters.
The Hunters return to court here on Sunday evening to take on the P.V. Sindhu-led Chennai Smashers.