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Hyderabad, January 31, 2020
World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying edged world champion PV Sindhu out in the most-awaited clash to take Bengaluru Raptors to victory over Hyderabad Hunters in the showdown between the last two years’ champions at the Star Sports Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the GMC Balayogi Sats Indoor Stadium here today.
This was the first triumph of the season for the defending champions Raptors after suffering three losses on the trot.
Tai came out as the stronger of the two, making a fast start to go up to 3-0. It, however, did not take the Rio Olympic silver medallist long to level matters. Finding her trademark smashes, she made it 3-3 before moving ahead to 8-5 as the Chinese Taipei ace seemed to be struggling to figure out Sindhu.
Amid roars of support from the crowd, Sindhu looked to be in control to inch her way ahead to 10-7. The Raptors ace then tried accelerating her game and used her skilful deception at the net to take two points on the trot. That was all she could manage to do against a determined Sindhu who never faltered.
Running Tai around the court by rotating the direction of the shuttle, the Indian raced ahead to 12-9 and soon bagged the opening game 15-11.
A highly competitive second game ensued which witnessed the stamina and hunger of both. Tai kept answering Sindhu’s power smashes with her own attacking game, keeping the game on par till 8-8. Infusing a little more speed in the exchanges, Tai got the better of Sindhu to move ahead to 12-9. With the World No. 2 having reached game points, the Indian banked on her aggression to close the gap between the two to just two points before extending the rallies in an attempt to draw an error from Tai’s racquet. It did not help her much as Tai took the second game 15-13.
With the momentum having swung her way, Tai did not make any mistake in the decider to open up a big lead of 6-2, riding on her finesse. Under pressure, Sindhu made unforced errors which did not help her cause.
Having put Sindhu on the backfoot, Tai kept going for her smashes to lead 13-9. With Sindhu’s smash landing wide, the highly anticipated match ended in an 11-15, 15-13, 15-9 victory for Tai, sealing the tie for the Raptors.
Playing the Trump for Hyderabad was a huge responsibility for Sourabh Verma against Brice Leverdez who has a 2-2 record against him on the BWF circuit. In a tight opening game that tested the grit of both the shuttlers, it was the Raptors player who emerged with flying colours as he pocketed the first game 15-12.
The next game saw a complete turnaround of fortunes. Verma upped the ante midway through the game, leaving the Frenchman complete dumbstruck. Hitting his smashes with precision, Verma soared to a 9-7 lead and carried on that momentum to level the match at one game apiece.
If the home fans hoped for a repeat of that performance in the decider, then they were in for a disappointment. It was a totally different version of the three-time national champion who struggled to reply to Leverdez. Despite constant chants from the fans trying to perk him up, Sourabh’s unforced errors did not desert him, leaving him trailing at 4-13.
Sourabh made one last-ditch effort to bag a couple of points before Leverdez targeted his backhand corner to push the shuttle to and wrap up the 15-12, 10-15, 15-6 victory, which was also his first win of the fifth season.
Earlier, the defending champions were given a great start by their men’s doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Rian Agung Saputro who held their nerves to beat Hyderabad’s Ben Lane and Vladimir Ivanov 15-13, 9-15, 15-12.