All eyes on Saina-Sindhu, Marin-Hyun battles in PBL semifinals (Roundup)

New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) Badminton fans in the city will be up for a treat when star Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal of Awadhe Warriors and Chennai Smashers’s P.V. Sindhu face off in the semi-finals of the ongoing Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the Siri Fort Auditorium here on Friday.

In the other semi-final, Hyderabad Hunters’s Carolina Marin will have an opportunity to avenge her loss to World No.4 South Korean Sung Ji Hyun of Mumbai Rockets, who defeated the Spanish World No.2 in their league encounter.

The draw for the semi-finals was decided after Hyderabad beat hosts Delhi Acers 5-2 in the last league match to confirm their semi-final berth against Mumbai.

Inspired by 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Marin, Hyderabad romped home in the do or die tie against a lacklustre home side, to end up on the fourth spot with 14 points.

Top-paced Awadhe Warriors are on 21 points while Mumbai are second in the standings with 19 points followed by Chennai at 18 points.

For Delhi, it was the culmination of a rather dismal campaign, who ended the league stage with a single win to their name.

Men’s singles star Jan Jorgensen was the only bright spot for the hosts on Thursday as he won his trump match to give the rather sparse home crowd a fleeting hope of a Delhi fightback.

Earlier, Sameer Varma ensured a solid start for Hyderabad by edging out Siril Varma 8-11, 11-3, 11-2 in a hard-fought encounter. Varma struggled a bit in the opening game before completely dominating the next two games despite some excellent placements by his opponent.

The mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Hoi Wah Chau extended Hyderabad’s lead by defeating the Delhi mixed doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Vladimir Ivanov by straight games.

The 17-year-old Satwiksairaj displayed impressive power and athleticism. He troubled the Delhi players with his powerful smashes and excellent court coverage as Hyderabad took the game 11-3, 11-4.The Hyderabad pair conceded the first point before fighting back to take a lead.

The Hyderabad duo equalised at 3-3 but Jwala put her shot into the net to hand the lead to Delhi once again. Chau and Sairaj extended the lead to go into the mid-game break at 6-3.

The Delhi shuttlers continued their domination after the break and did not concede any point after the break to take the opening game at 11-3. They dominated the second game as well and opened up a 6-2 lead at the break. Jwala and Ivanov were no match for the Delhi pair who sealed the second game at 11-4 to wrap up the match.

With Delhi trailing 2-0, Denmark star Jorgensen brought the hosts back on level terms with an 11-5, 11-7 victory over Rajiv in a rather one-sided men’s singles contest which was also a trump match.

Jorgensen took five consecutive points in the opening game before he put one into the net to hand Rajiv his first point.

With a formidable 6-2 lead at the break, the former European champion took the first game 11-5 without breaking much sweat. Rajiv produced a much better fight in the second game with some excellent placements and subtle changes in speed.

But Jorgensen managed to hold off the Delhi shuttler’s challenge to take the game 11-7.

Reigning Olympic champion Marin handed the lead back to the visitors with a hard-fought 15-14, 11-4 verdict over Delhi’s Nitchaon Jindapol in the women’s singles contest which was the other trump match of the tie.

The opening rally witnessed an incredible 34 shots before Marin drew first blood.

Trailing 1-6 early on, Jindapol fought back to draw level at 8-8 before clinching the lead with some superb placement. The Olympic champion leveled the scores at 10-10 before the Delhi shuttler regained the advantage with a powerful smash before another exhausting rally saw her lead by 13-12.

Jindapol then put her attempt into the net to hand the momentum to Marin who went on to take the game 15-14.

Having forced the advantage, Marin dominated the second game to grab a well-deserved victory.

The men’s doubles duo of Tan Boon Heong and Tan Wee Kiong rounded off an excellent performance from Hyderabad with an 11-9, 13-11 over the Delhi combination of Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov.

–IANS

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