Hyderabad Hunters warmed up for the semifinal with a convincing 6-(-1) win over Bengaluru Blasters in the Premier Badminton League at Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Thursday night.
In the semifinals, Hunters will take on Delhi Dashers on Friday while Bengaluru Blasters will take on Ahmedabad Smash Masters on Saturday.
It was an inconsequential match which also saw Blasters rest World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen as both the teams had already made it to the last four stage.
The home team was off to a winning start with the mixed doubles combine of R. Satwiksairaj and Pia Zebadiah getting the better of the experienced Blasters duo of Manu Attri and N. Sikki Reddy.
Then, Hunters’ World No. 16 B. Sai Praneeth downed a fighting Chong Wei Feng to give the crowd favourites a 2-0 lead.
In the first game, Chong, ranked World No. 45, was too good with his down-the-line smashes. The left-hander looked a far better player every time he leapt to unleash those telling smashes.
But, in the second game, Sai mixed the big smashes with some delectable drops at the net. This uncanny blend had Wong struggling and was even forced to commit quite a few unforced errors at critical junctures.
The third game was exciting. Even though Chong took early lead (6-3), Sai fought back well to surge ahead in front of a bigger crowd this evening.
A cross-court smash, a splendid net dribble by Sai and an erratic Chong return saw the Hunters star player take 13-10 lead. But, Chong was in no mood to give up easily and the opponent also helped his cause – missing a simple smash at the net. And, Chong followed it up winning a fantastic rally to make the scoreline read 13-14 in his favour. However, in the tense moments, Chong finished loser as his backhand landed in the net to the delight of Sai.
Then, Olympic champion Carolina Marin virtually dished out a masterclass to down World No. 16 Kirsty Gilmour in the women’s singles to give Hunters a 3-0 lead.
Later, 37-year-old Lee Hyun Il won the Trump match for Hunters to seal the issue, putting it across Subhanker Dey who is 13 years younger to him. However, Dey can have the satisfaction of seeing World champion Axelsen standing up to cheer him whenever he came up with some impressive smashes and placements.
- Hyderabad Hunters bt Bengaluru Blasters 6-(-1)
- M1- Mixed Doubles: R. Satwiksairaj & Pia Zebadiah bt Manu Attri & N. Sikki Reddy 15-6, 14-15, 15-9;
- M2 – Men’s Singles: B. Sai Praneeth bt Chong Wei Feng 10-15, 15-7, 15-14;
- M3 – Women’s Singles: Carolina Marin bt Kirsty Gilmour 15-9, 15-7;
- M4 – Men’s Singles: Lee Hyun Il (T) bt Subhanker Dey 15-11, 11-15, 15-11;
- M5 – Men’s Doubles: Markis Kido & Yoo Yeon Seong bt Mathias Boe & Kim Sa Rang (T) 15-10, 11-15, 15-7)
Hyderabad Hunters vs Delhi Dashers ( Friday)
Bengaluru Blasters vs Ahmedabad Smash Masters ( Saturday)