Spearheaded by world no 4 Saina Nehwal, Hyderabad Hotshots will be determined to stamp their authority on Awadhe Warriors in what promises to be a rip-roaring Indian Badminton League (IBL) final in Mumbai on Saturday.
Not only are reputations and the overall championship at stake, but there’s also the case of $1 million that is to be won as the tournament reaches its climax.
Hotshots have relied a lot on their icon player Saina’s show and the shuttle queen has not disappointed so far, winning all her six singles matches thus far.
The crowd would be eagerly looking forward to the second match in the finale between Saina and her challenger PV Sindhu, the icon for her team.
The 19-year-old paved the way for Warriors’ entry into the final by winning her match on Thursday in the semifinal against Mumbai Masters’ top woman player and thrice All-England champion Tine Baun in Bangalore.
In their first encounter of the tournament, Saina blew her Hyderabad city rival and World Badminton Championship bronze medal winner Sindhu off the court with a thumping 21-9 21-8 victory.
The taller Sindhu would thus be eager to avenge that defeat and the contrast in style of play of the two players, with the faster and fitter Saina pitted against her younger rival with superior reach, should enthrall the spectators.
Even if Saina repeats her domination of Sindhu, the important issue is whether the Warriors have sufficient depth to win other matches and turn the tables on the confident-looking Hotshots.
The Hyderabad side ousted the Pune Pistons 3-0 in the first semifinal at Hyderabad two nights ago — and all their players were in imperious form.
It’s more or less certain that Hotshots would be fielding their main men’s singles player Thai world no. 19 S Tanongsak, a semifinalist at the All England championships in March, to provide them a flying start — just like he did against RMV Gurusaidutt of Warriors in three games the last time the two teams met.
A lot would also depend on the performance of Hotshots’ second singles player and world no. 24 Ajay Jayaram, who lost to K Srikanth in their earlier encounter. However, he comes at the back of another win against world no 5 Tien Minh Nguyen.
If Jayaram could ramp up his game against Srikanth, the Thai Open winner, it would increase the Hotshots’ chances enormously.
The men’s doubles encounter could be tricky with both the teams having some top specialists in their ranks.
An absorbing clash between the Danish-Indonesian pair of Mathias Boe and Markis Kido for Warriors’ against the Malaysian duo of Shem Goh and Khim Wah Lim is also on the cards.
Goh and Wah Lim won their match easily to help Hotshots wrap up the semifinal against Pistons early, while Boe and Kido did likewise in the semifinal against Masters last night.
Kido later teamed up with his sister Pia Bernadeth, who takes part in international tournaments regularly and is ranked ninth in the world in mixed doubles, to deliver the knockout punch on Masters’ German-Danish pair of Ivanov-Baun last night.
“I and my sister are thrilled to win this match. First game was very close and we had to play some soft shots to win points in the second game. Both of us are ready to give a strong fight to Hyderabad Hotshots in the finals,” said Kido.
“My earlier match along with Mathias Boe was also very exciting. We had very good understanding which helped give us a lead,” he added.
Kido, the man of that second semifinal clash, could again play a crucial role for the Warriors’ on Saturday with his expertise.
- IBL: Awadhe Warriors in final (dnaindia.com)
- Sindhu, Kido put Warriors in final (vancouverdesi.com)
- Sindhu tames Tine, Warriors beat Masters 3-2 (vancouverdesi.com)