Chirag Shetty, Rituparna Das and Loh Kean Yew guided Pune 7 Aces to victory over Mumbai Rockets in a highly entertaining Maharashtra derby as the Lucknow leg of the Premier Badminton League kicked off at the Babu Banarasi Das Badminton Academy here on Saturday. The highly-anticipated encounter started off with a thrilling men's doubles match that had oodles of drama and smashes raining from both sides. Two-time World Championships bronze medallists Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang showed their experience and stamina in a hard-fought first game to bag it 15-14.
That, however, could not deter the Pune duo who came storming back pretty soon. For Chirag Shetty, who made history at the Thailand Open alongside Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, it was a priceless opportunity to partner reigning world champion Hendra Setiawan. Their chemistry was visible from the second game onwards as Shetty upped the ante with some fiery smashes to put Pune back in contention.
Exhibiting much more alertness and outstanding anticipation skills at the net, Shetty simply wrested control of the match. From 4-1, the Indo-Indonesian pair went ahead to 12-3 and then wrapped it up 15-5.
The Koreans clearly started looking deflated after the resilient display from the Pune team. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Shetty's training sessions with World No. 2 Setiawan, who won the All England Championships as well as the BWF World Tour Finals in 2019, were clearly bearing fruit. The two never backed off from attacking before completing a 14-15, 15-5, 15-6 comeback win in 35 minutes.
"It's incredible to be partnering one of the world's best doubles players like Setiawan, who I have played against many times. I have been practising hard with him for the past 2-3 days, picking up little nuances of the game and that got reflected in the second and third games," said an elated Shetty after the win.
In the women's singles clash, former national champion Rituparna Das of Pune survived a scare from youngster Shriyanshi Pardeshi, who beat Gayatri Gopichand in her first PBL match of the season. Pardeshi came back from a 2-6 deficit to grab the first game 15-11.
Das was able to settle into the match following that and find her rhythm. The confidence and courage that she displayed en route to the semi-finals of the Syed Modi International last year was evident once more as she finished with an 11-15, 15-9, 15-9 Trump win.
World No. 36 Loh Kean Yew then took the court against 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap. Quick reflexes helped Loh surge to 8-4 in a dazzling start for the Pune shuttler. Kashyap's errors at the net did not help his cause either as he trailed 6-13 before conceding the first game 7-15.
The Indian ace, however, looked more settled in the second game and fought toe-to-toe. But the 2019 Thailand Masters was able to hold his nerves in a tense ending for a 15-7, 15-14 victory to secure the tie for Pune 7 Aces.
MD: Shetty/Setiawan (Pune) def Jung/Rang (Mumbai) 14-15, 15-5, 15-6
WS: Das (Pune Trump) def Pardeshi (Mumbai) 11-15, 15-9, 15-9
MS: Loh (Pune) def Kashyap (Mumbai) 15-7, 15-14