Delhi Dashers made it to the last four of the Vodafone Premier Badminton League championship with an emphatic 4-1 win over North Eastern Warriors to finish the league with 15 points at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Thursday night.
Warriors was off to a winning start thanks to the efficacy of the mixed doubles combination of Li Michelle and Shin Baek-Cheol, who shocked the experienced Vladimir Ivanov and Ashwini Ponnappa 15-13, 15-11 in front of a sparse crowd.
Then, in the first men’s singles, World No. 15 Wing Ki Wong Vincent of Delhi Dashers scored a 15-13, 10-15, 15-12 win over World No. 38 Ajay Jayaram of Warriors to keep his team in the hunt.
Vincent showed his all-round skills in the first game with a perfect blend of smashes and delectable drops only to see the opponent change the pace of the game in the second one – relying more on net dribbles which proved to be effective as Jayaram took the issue into the decider.
After a sluggish start in the final game which saw the scores tied seven-all, Vincent was a different player getting his strokes in, and his job was made easier with Jayaram fumbling with net dribbles.
Then came the big turn-around for Delhi with World No. 22 Tian Houwei shocking World No. 11 Wang Tzu Wei in what was a ‘Trump Match’ for the Warriors.
In the first game, southpaw Houwei was in a hurry with stunning smashes especially on either flanks. But, in the second game, Wang, in a clever change of strategy, played mostly from the centre to cover those gaps and set himself well for a series of stunning smashes.
But, in the decider, Houwei showed typical Chinese spirit after trailing 2-9 to eventually win the game and the match with a terrific display of aggression and great defence at the net.
Later, in the crucial women’s singles, which was a ‘Trump’ match for Delhi as its World No. 6 Sung Ji Hyun took on World No. 21 Li Michelle and was clearly surprised in the first game by the tenacity of the opponent.
But, Sung showed splendid control over her half-smashes to win the second game. And, in the final game, Michelle staged a fine back from 8-11 to see the scores tied at 13-all. But, it was Sung’s class which was to the fore as she clinched a thriller with Michelle found wanting at the net.
After Sung’s win, the men’s doubles match – last of the evening – was inconsequential.
The results: Delhi Dashers bt North-Eastern Warriors 4-1 (Vladimir Ivanov & Ashwini Ponnappa lost to Li Michelle & Shin Baek-Cheol 13-15, 11-15; Wing Ki Wong Vincent bt Ajay Jayaram 15-13, 10-15, 15-12; Tian Houwei bt Wang Tzu Wei (T) 15-10, 8-15, 15-11; Sung Ji Hyun (T) bt Li Michelle 13-15, 15-11, 15-13; Ivan Sozonov & Vladimir Ivanov lost to Kim Gi Jung & Shin Baek-Cheol 9-15, 15-10, 15-9).