Hyderabad, Jan 11 (IANS) A Saina Nehwal-less Awadhe Warriors was more than enough to beat the P.V. Sindhu-led Chennai Smashers 4-1 on the last day of the Hyderabad leg of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Monday. With the victory, the Warriors jumped to the top spot of the standings with 17 points, cementing their place in the top-4 and thus easily qualifying for the semifinals. This was the Warriors’ fourth consecutive victory after losing the tournament opener on January 2 to Mumbai Rockets. On the other hand, the Smashers lost their first tie in four outings and they are currently third in the standings with 13 points. 

After sharing two wins each in the first four matches, it all boiled down to the mixed doubles contest which was the first match where both teams played their respective Trump cards. A win in a team’s selected Trump Match gives them two points while a loss deducts one. The Warriors’ pair of Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen clearly turned out to be the better combination on the night, winning the match and the tie 15-7 and 15-10 against Chris Adcock and Pia Zebadiah of the Smashers. The Smashers got the start they wanted as Brice Leverdez went on to beat the energetic Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 15-13, 15-9 to give the Chennai-based team a 1-0 lead. Warriors’ B. Sai Praneeth levelled things up with a 12-15, 15-8, 15-13 triumph over Sony Dwi Kuncoro. 

“It’s never easy to come back after losing the first game. I committed a lot of mistakes in the first game and Sony took full advantage of it. I knew if I get my rhythm I will play better and that’s what happened in the rest of the match and the result is in front of all,” said Sai. Experienced shuttlers Cai Yun and Hendra Gunawan gave the Warriors the lead (2-1) in the tie for the first time when they outwitted the scratch combination of Toby N.G. and Pranaav Chopra of the Smashers 15-13, 15-11. “A positive result always works as a confidence-builder for your team. We had prepared our strategies against them and managed to implement them properly,” said the reigning Olympic men’s doubles champion Cai. Smashers skipper Sindhu then equalised the contest with a 15-7, 15-3 thrashing of G. Vrushali in the women’s singles contest. “It was a comfortable win I would say,” said Sindhu. 

Eventually, Issara and Pedersen sealed it for the Warriors to book a place in the semis. The Awadhe Warriors (17 points) and Delhi Acers (15) have qualified for the last-four stage. The Chennai Smashers (13) and Mumbai Rockets (13) have also virtually sealed it. 

The Jwala Gutta-led Hyderabad Hunters (11) are certainly out of contention while the Bengaluru Top Guns (8) have an outside chance of reaching the knockouts. All will depend on the final day of the league phase on Wednesday when the Rockets take on the Acers followed by a match-up between the Smashers and Top Guns. With the Warriors and Acers through and Hunters out, two teams from Smashers, Rockets and Top Guns will enter the semis. The final day of the league phase will be played in Bengaluru on Wednesday with Tuesday as a break.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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