HYDERABAD: Sai Praneeth‘s dominant performance and Carolina Marin‘s fighting ability steered Hyderabad Hunters into their maiden final in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Friday. Hunters rallied back to blank Delhi Dashers 3-0 in the semi-finals.
After the hosts lost the mixed doubles tie, when Pia Zebadiah Bernadet and Satwiksairaj Ranki Reddy lost to Ashwini Ponnappa and Vladmir Ivanov 13-15, 15-10, 15-10, Praneeth did the star-turn. The Singapore Open champion stunned Tian Howei 15-9, 15-8 in the latter’s trump match. With Houwei’s loss, Delhi, who got a minus point, lost one point while Hyderabad gained one.
Delhi’s move to pick Houwei for the Trump match backfired. Backed by the vociferous home crowd, Praneeth played like a champion. With excellent execution of crosscourt smashes and control at the net, Praneeth dictated the pace of the game right throughout the contest.
Praneeth took an early lead of 8-3 in the first game and gave no chance to Houwei. Having noticed Houwei’s brilliance with the backhand on Wednesday, where the Chinese shuttler stunned Tzu Wei Wang, Praneeth hardly gave any space and literally squeezed his rival. Unable to move freely on court, Houwei committed several unforced errors making things easier for the Hyderabadi.
“What more do you want than help your team win the tie? I am very happy with the way I played today. Now our focus is on winning the title,” Praneeth said.
Hyderabad skipper Marin justified her top billing by pulling off the Trump match for the hosts. Marin’s comeback victory against Ji Hyun Sung 12-15, 15-10, 15-9 fetched two points for the hosts thereby securing them an unassailable 3-0 lead.
“I’m extremely delighted to pull off this tie for my team. She made things difficult for me in the first game. I’d like to thank the brilliant crowd who backed me,” Marin said.
The Spanish Olympic champion struggled with her movement in the first game. Noticing this, Sung, who was also a former world No.2, managed to hit the lines consistently.
She got a 7-3 lead and wrapped up the game at 15-12. After changing the courts, Marin got her rhythm back and started off with a 4-0 lead, though Sung closely followed till 7-8, the Spaniard showed her class in the latter part of the second game.
Managing some difficult returns, she surprised Sung with acute angled drives. In the third game too Marin secured an early 9-3 lead and snuffed out the Korean challenge with effortless ease.
In the final, Hyderabad will face the winner of the other last four clash between Ahmedabad Smash Masters and Bengaluru Blasters.
Hyderabad Hunters bt Delhi Dashers 3-0 (Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Pia Zebadiah Bernadet lost to Ashwini Ponnappa/ Vladimir Ivanov 15-13, 10-15, 10-15; Sai Praneeth bt Tian Houwei 15-9, 15-8; Carolina Marin bt Ji Hyun Sung 12-15, 15-10, 15-9).