NEW DELHI: India’s badminton queen Saina Nehwal stamped her authority with a dominating win over P V Sindhu as Hyderabad Hotshots notched up a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Awadhe Warriors in the inaugural Indian Badminton League on Thursday.
Hyderabad allowed Warriors to lock the tie 2-2 after taking a 2-0 lead but Pradyna Gadre and Shem Goh V sealed the contest for Hyderabad by winning the deciding mixed doubles.
Coming into the make-or-break match, Pradyna Gadre and Shem Goh V recorded a 21-9 19-21 11-8 win over Markis Kido of Indonesia and Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachal.
Touted as the biggest match of the day, the women’s singles clash between Saina and Sindhu turned out to a one-sided affair as the London Olympics bronze medallist registered a 21-19 21-8 win over Sindhu, who looked a pale shadow of her fighting self which has earned her the title of a giant slayer.
Saina has not won a single title this year and also failed to win a medal at world championship after having a troubled stomach but she tamed her fast rising compatriot after some initial tough moments.
She recovered from a slow start to dominate the proceedings against Sindhu, who broke into the world top 10 in the latest BWF ranking on Thursday.
Sindhu dominated the proceedings early on as she used her deceptive drops and angled slice to bamboozle Saina.
Sindhu enjoyed a healthy lead in the first two breaks. The young Hyderabadi was leading 7-3 in the first interval and then kept a 14-10 lead in the second break.
But Saina, who was depending more on her baseline down the line smashes till now, changed gears and clawed back with some immaculate body smashes and then marched ahead 17-15.
Sindhu kept her cool and grabbed two quick points to make it 17-17 but she lost a point at the net to hand over the lead to Saina again.
Egged on by the vociferous nearly-packed stadium crowd, the 23-year-old Commonwealth Games champion moved to a two-game point lead and although she lost a game point, she sealed it with a smash to pocket the opening game.
In the second game, Sindhu could not play her natural game. She looked completely off-colour and struggled with her strokes. She committed many unforced errors as Saina led 7-4 and 14-6 in the first two intervals.
Sindhu could not break Saina’s rally game and surrendered rather meekly in the end as Saina shut the doors on her younger colleague with a powerful smash.
“Sindhu gave me a tough time in the beginning but the cheer from the crowd really helped me in giving my best and I hope I can continue to live upto the expectations of the crowd and my team,” Saina said after the match.
Commenting on Sindhu’s performance Nehwal added, “The way she plays, I’m sure she has a bright future ahead.”
Earlier, in the opening match, RMV Gurusaidutt squandered a one-game advantage to go down fighting 21-15 14-21 9-11 to Saemsomboonsuk Tanongsak of Thailand in the first men’s singles competition to allow Hyderabad to lead 1-0.
The world number four Saina then helped Hyderabad to a 2-0 lead with an emphatic win over Sindhu.
Men’s doubles pair of Markis Kido of Indonesia and Mathias Boe of Denmark then kept Awadhe Warriors’ hopes alive with a 21-14 21-20 win in the third match.
Mathias Boe said: “For a moment I forgot about winning with 2 point system on Thursday but when I hear the claps from the crowd, I became little too excited. I am very tired because I had to come straight from the World Championship but me and the team are trying to keep the spirit on.”
Still lagging 1-2, young K Srikanth was entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the Warriors back into the contest and he didn’t disappoint as he stunned higher-ranked Ajay Jayaram in straight-games to make it 2-2.
The Thailand Grand Prix gold winner notched up a 21-17 21-19 over the world number 24 Jayaram after lagging 12-17 in the second game to raise hopes of a victory over the Hyderabad Hotshots.
In the deciding match, Pradyna Gadre took the court along with Shem Goh V and the pair soon raced away with the first game at 21-9. But their rivals Markis Kido of Indonesia and Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachal came back strongly as they played out of their skin to pocket the second game at 21-19.
However, Pradyna and Shem ensured Hyderabad have the last laugh as they opened up a narrow 6-4 in the interval in the decider and held on their nerves to eventually close the match at 11-8 with a powerful smash by Shem.
With this victory , Hyderabad gathered four points, while Awadhe Warriors settled with two points.
Earlier, in the first match, Guru led 7-2 at the first break. He varied the pace well and used his smashes to good effect. Tanongsak tried to script a comeback by involving Guru in rallies and made it 8-9 but Guru didn’t allow the pressure to build and went into the second interval with a 14-10 lead.
Both were erratic after that but it was Guru who nosed ahead when Tanongsak hit the net. Following few advice from Taufik Hidayat, the left handed Tanongsak came back strongly after changing sides and made it 7-2. The duo fought tooth and nail after the break but Tanongsak still enjoyed a 14-10 lead at the second interval.
Guru looked out of sort after that as the Thai accumulated points in a jiffy and roared back into the contest with a jump smash.
In the decider, Guru got his act together and eked out a narrow 6-4 lead at the first break. However, Tanongsak turned the tables moving to 9-8. Guru drew level but his shot got buried at the nets first and then he shot wide to allow the Thai win the game in the new race to 11 point format.