After two engrossing semifinal ties at Bengaluru and Hyderabad on January 14 & 15, the 2016 Premier Badminton League is now down to its last match in Delhi, where the home side will meet Mumbai Rockets in the final on January 17. On Thursday, Delhi defeated Chennai Smashers 4-3 at Bengaluru to affirm their superiority with a fine run throughout the tournament while Mumbai Rockets defeated Lucknow team Awadhe Warriors at Hyderabad on Friday. Delhi came through in a thriller and Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto was their star. Although Chennai’s PV Sindhu won her trump match against PC Thulasi, that did not prove enough as Delhi recorded victories in men’s singles and doubles. Sugiarto won Delhi’s trump men’s singles match to make it 4-3 for his team. With that victory, Delhi Acres also avenged their 3-4 loss against Smashers in the League Phase. In the other semifinal, Awadhe were unlucky that their star performer Saina Nehwal was not fully match-fit and lost to Mumbai’s Chinese recruit and world no.47 Han Li. Since that was also Awadhe’s trump match and Mumbai had already won the men’s singles and men’s doubles, the Lucknow outfit trailed 0-3 after Saina’s loss. Mumbai didn’t have to play any further and went through to the final.
In the first semifinal of 2016 Premier Badminton League at Bengaluru, Delhi Acres began with the men’s doubles match against Chennai Smashers. The Delhi pair of Koon Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong faced Chennai’s Chris Adcock/Pranaav Jerry Chopra. The experienced Malaysians proved to be too good for Chris/Chopra in the first game and won it at 15-10. In the second game however, the Chennai pair went neck-to-neck with Keat/Heong until the score reached 10-10. From this point onwards, Chennai overtook Delhi and led 13-11. But the dogged Delhi team clinched two points to make the score 13-13. The game eventually went to sudden death where Acers prevailed 15-14.
In men’s singles, Ajay Jayaram ensured a 2-0 lead for Delhi by winning a hard-fought battle against Chennai’s Indonesian star Sony Dwi Kuncoro. Jayaram lost the first game in sudden death but recovered to down Kuncoro 14-15, 15-10, 15-7. The next match of the tie saw England’s Chris Adcock of Chennai facing his wife Gabrielle, who represented Delhi. Chris had Pia Zebadiah as his partner while Gaby played with Koon Kien Keat. Chennai Smashers won the first game easily but had a fight in their hands in the second that was decided in sudden death as Chris/Zebadiah won 15-9, 15-14. In women’s singles, Chennai’s PV Sindhu played her trump match against Delhi’s PC Thulasi and her 15-6, 15-7 victory yielded 2 points for Chennai and a negative point for Delhi. With Chennai going 3-2 ahead, the last men’s singles trump match between Delhi’s Tommy Sugiarto and Chennai’s Brice Leverdez became crucial. Though the Frenchman fought hard, he couldn’t stand against Sugiarto’s experience as the Indonesian won 15-11, 15-14. Chennai lost the tie 3-4 and went out of contention for the title game at Delhi on Sunday.
In the second semifinal at Hyderabad on Friday, Awadhe Warriors played against Mumbai Rockets. Mumbai began by losing the first mixed doubles match when Vladimir Ivanov/Kamilla Juhl were defeated by Awadhe’s Bodin Issara/Christinna Pedersen. It was a nail-biting match with both teams fighting hard. Issara/Pedersen lost the first game but bounced back to take the second. With game scores level, the third game kept spectators engrossed. The game went to sudden death and Awadhe finally prevailed 12-15, 15-13, 15-14. That was the only point that Awadhe earned. The second match was the men’s singles between Mumbai’s HS Prannoy and Awadhe’s Tanongsak. Though Prannoy began by losing the first game, he came strongly in the next two games to emerge triumphant at 12-15, 15-7, 15-9. In the following men’s doubles, the Mumbai pair of Mathias Boe/Vladimir Ivanov defeated Awadhe’s Bodin Issara/Cai Yun 15-10, 12-15, 15-13. With two match wins, Mumbai Rockets took a 2-1 lead before Awadhe’s Saina Nehwal came on to play Mumbai’s Han Li. This was crunch trump match for Awadhe but the Chinese woman showed amazing agility in the match and pushed Saina in the first game to win at 15-8. It was evident that Saina was not fully fit. Regardless, the world no.2 managed to beat Li in the second game. Li played much better in the decider and the sick Saina couldn’t keep pace with her and lost in three games. Being a trump match Mumbai’s lead became 3-0 and they didn’t need to play any other match. In the 2016 PBL final on Sunday, Mumbai Rockets take on Delhi Acres at Delhi.