Doubles specialist Ashwini Ponappa, playing true to her icon status in the Vodafone Indian Badminton League, is proving to be an inspiration for Pune Pistons. Teaming up with Denmark’s Joachim Fischer in mixed doubles, the Indian delivered two back-to-back victories in the decider.

With two wins in two appearances, the Pune franchise has earned the right to be viewed with respect by rivals to follow, starting with Hyderabad Hotshots on Monday.

Hard nut to crack

World No. 3 Juliane Schenk is pulling her weight in the women’s singles for Pune and will be a hard nut to crack for Saina Nehwal.

Juliane missed the 2013 World Championship due to differences with the German federation. IBL displays so far indicate that frustrations off-court are being channelized in a positive way, much to the delight of the Pune team.

Tine Baun, former world number one from Denmark, felt the whiplash at Lucknow, going down in three games against the German.

“I am happy to have maintained my mental balance and speed. It was a tough win,” Juliane had remarked after the win against Mumbai Masters.

Pune can take confidence from Ashwini’s form, going into the third group tie against Hyderabad at the new-look NSCI stadium.

Smarting from a blow to her pride post-auction, she is determined to do her bit into making doubles.

Saina deals with expectations in her own quiet way. Hyderabad, having lost to Delhi Smashers, needs her to get into the groove and build on Saensomboonsuk Tanongsak’s brilliance in the men’s singles. The Thai came away victorious both times he stepped on court.

Hyderabad has a world class men’s doubles pair in V Shem Goh and Khim Wah Lim from Malaysia, so Saina’s singles outcome will be critical.

The frenetic schedule may have taken a toll on others, she is taking it in her stride and trying to infuse excitement into the competition in tune with her crowd-puller reputation.

Indian badminton looks up to her to inspire home-grown talents like doubles exponents Pradyna Gadre, Tarun Kona (Hyderabad Hotshots) into cashing in on the opportunity to team up with and against international stars.

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