Saina leads Warriors to victory over Acers

Hosts Awadhe Warriors came back well from their loss in the opening encounter of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) to drub Delhi Acers 4-3 at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium here on Monday.

The Saina Nehwal-led Warriors had lost to Mumbai Rockets in the PBL opener on Saturday, but came back strongly to defeat the Acers in what was their first match of the six-team tournament.

The visitors got off to a great start with World No.11 Tommy Sugiarto beating Thai left-hander Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of tgh Warriors 15-13, 15-11 in the opening men’s singles contest.

“He was very good. While I won the match in two games, he gave me a tough fight. I had to keep a complete check on his shots as he mixed it up very well. I am happy I won and opened the account for my team,” said Sugiarto, who helped the Delhi-based team take a 1-0 lead in the tie.

However, thereon it appeared to be a road of victories for the Warriors as three consecutive wins, including their trump match, easily bagged the contest.

Next up, the women’s singles contest was chosen as the trump match for the Warriors, who had World No.2 Saina taking on the Acers’ P.C. Thulasi.

The option to choose a trump match is awarded to each team. A victory in the match gives the team two points while a loss means deduction of one point. Both teams can choose the same match as their trump contest.

Thulasi had no chance against the former World No.1 Hyderabadi whose speed and agility easily took the match away from the Kerala shuttler. In the end, Saina sealed the match 15-9, 15-10 to get two points for the hosts, making the Warriors lead 2-1.

“She started off well and she is good with her net play and I enjoyed playing those shots with her. It is great to win in front of your home crowd. It was my first match of the league and it produced a productive result as it was a trump match for our side,” said Saina, who missed the PBL opener due to an injury.

In the middle, the crowd rushed in to click selfies with Bollywood actors Akshay Kumar, who is the PBL brand ambassador, and Nimrat Kaur, who were in attendance.

The pair of Cai Yun and Bodin Issara, representing the Warriors, had a tough time against Acers’ Koo Keat Kien and Tan Boon Heong as it turned out to be a neck-and-neck contest. However, the experience of Cai and the exuberance of Bodin helped the hosts take the match 15-12, 15-14 and extend their lead to 3-1.

“The scorecard shows now tough the match was and we are pretty happy we prevailed. They were too good and we enjoyed every long rally that we shared with them. Definitely Saina’s win in the last match boosted our confidence which eventually helped us win this match,” said reigning Olympic and four-time World Champion Cai of China.

Reigning men’s singles national champion B. Sai Praneeth added one more point to the Warriors’ lead as the Hyderabadi drubbed England Rajiv Ouseph of the Acers 15-12, 15-9.

With the win, the Warriors clinched the contest 4-1. Even a win for the Acers’ in the next mixed doubles match — their trump match — could not have sealed the deal the visitors. However, at the league stage every point counts to qualify for the semi-finals.

Warriors’ Hendra Gunawa and K. Maneesha gave a tough fight to Acers’ Akshay Dewalkar and Gabrielle Adcock but the latter pair won the match 15-14, 13-15, 15-5 to win their trump game and limit the damage to 3-4.