The last day of round-robin fixtures in India’s 2016 Premier Badminton League brought four teams to Bengaluru for two mouth-watering ties. Delhi Acres had literally sealed a place in the semifinal earlier and they put a stamp of authority with a thumping win over Mumbai Rockets in the first tie. Mumbai had looked good all through the league phase but the huge loss against Delhi put a question mark on their semifinal qualification. The other qualified team in 2016 PBL was the Saina Nehwal led Awadhe Warriors. Since Hyderabad Hunters had already been knocked out of semifinal contention, Bengaluru’s second tie between Chennai smashers and Bengaluru Top-Guns held all the answers. For Mumbai, the result of this tie became crucial and they prayed for Chennai’s victory after losing to Delhi in the afternoon. In PBL’s last league game, Chennai Smashers obliged Mumbai by beating Bengaluru 4-1. This result ensured Chennai’s entry into SF and Mumbai benefitted because Bengaluru couldn’t make the grade.
At the start of the tournament, Hyderabad Hunters were fancied to win the 2016 PBL on the strength of their singles superstar Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia. However, as the events unfolded, Lee lost two consecutive matches and didn’t play in the tie against Mumbai Rockets on January 11. Mumbai’s 4-1 victory over Hyderabad threw Hyderabad Hunters out of semifinal contention and since Awadhe and Delhi had already qualified, two semifinal spots were up for grabs on the last day on January 13 in the two ties that were scheduled. In the first, Delhi played powerfully and inflicted a heavy defeat on Mumbai. Ironically, despite beginning the tie with a victory in mixed doubles, Mumbai lost rest of their matches. After the Mumbai combo of Vladimir Ivanov and Kamilla Rytter Juhl defeated Delhi’s Akshay Dewalkar and Aparna Balan 15-13, 15-11, Delhi’s PC Thulasi defeated Mumbai’s Ruthvika Gadde 15-11, 5-15, 15-11 in women’s singles. Since Mumbai used this as their Trump match, they conceded the point earned in the first match and Delhi took 2 points as per the rules. With Tommy Sugiarto beating HS Prannoy in men’s singles, Delhi’s lead became 2-0 and they were yet to call a trump match. Delhi also won men’s doubles, where Koo Keat Kien/Tan Boon Heong defeated Mumbai’s Vladimir Ivanov/Mathias Boe 11-15, 15-12, 15-10 to take an unassailable 3-0 lead. The men’s singles was Delhi’s Trump match and Rajiv Ouseph scored a 15-7, 15-10 victory over Mumbai’s Gurusai Dutt to make it 5-0 for his team.
Chennai Smashers qualified for the semifinals after beating Bengaluru Top Guns 4-1 in the last league tie. Bengaluru’s loss meant that Mumbai Rockets also earned an indirect semifinal berth. Before the start, Bengaluru needed to win all the five matches to qualify but Chennai made a smart move by calling the first men’s singles as their Trump match, in which Sony Dwi Kuncoro defeated Bengaluru’s Sameer Verma in three games 15-10, 10-15, 15-8 and that victory put Chennai 2-0 ahead and Bengaluru went out of contention. However, Bengaluru wiped out the negative point by winning the men’s doubles, in which Hoon Thien How/Joachim Fisher Nielsen beat Chris Adcock/Pranaav Jerry Chopra 15-7, 15-8. The home side also reduced the lead further, when Indian star Srikanth Kidambi outplayed Chennai’s Brice Leverdez 15-4, 15-12. In women’s singles, PV Sindhu continued with her brilliant run and defeated Bengaluru’s Chinese youngster Suo Di 15-12, 15-7 and in mixed doubles, Chennai’s Chris Adcock/Pia Zebadiah defeated Bengaluru’s Ashwini Ponnappa/Joachim Fisher Nilesen 15-14, 15-12. In the end, it was a clean 4-1 victory for Chennai.
In the first semifinal in Bangalore on January 14, Chennai Smashers will take on Delhi Acres, while Mumbai Rockets play against Awadhe Warriors in the second semifinal at Hyderabad on January 15. The winning teams will then travel to Delhi for the grand finale on Sunday January 17, 2016.
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