With his booming smashes, Vladimir Ivanov is making up for the absence of top-ranked Lee Chong Wei. Unfortunately, Mumbai Masters could not ride on the Russian’s stellar performance in its Indian Badminton League (IBL) tie against Pune Pistons here on Saturday night.

Pune, with its second 3-2 win, added four points to its kitty to top the table with eight points after its star mixed doubles combine of Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Ashwini Ponnappa bettered the low-profile Pranav Chopra and Sikki Reddy.

The towering Ivanov turned out to be the trump card for Mumbai. He bent his back to beat Saurabh Verma, a solid player with an all-round game.

Verma played better than what the scoreline suggests. He tried his best to make Ivanov play at the net and engaged him in some fascinating rallies.

Later, Ivanov paired with Chopra to pip Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar in a thrilling men’s doubles encounter. Ivanov and Chopra gelled well to take the first game. Sanave and Rupesh covered the court well in the next game to narrowly win it. The fight was neck-and-neck in the third before the Mumbai duo clinched the affair.

World No. 3 Juliane Schenk staged an excellent fightback to beat Mumbai’s Tine Baun in the women’s singles. Juliane, who committed many mistakes to lose the first game, found her form after the change of ends. The German played some well-executed shots to tame her Danish rival.

The fleet-footed Vietnamese Tien Minh Nyugen, the fifth-ranked player in the world, gave a fine exhibition of court coverage and skill to subdue the energetic German Marc Zweibler.

Earlier, Krrish Delhi Smashers got the better of Hyderabad Hotshots 3-2 to collect four points from its first win and take its tally to six. Hyderabad too has six points.

Delhi, which made four changes, spoilt a fine opportunity to go 1-0 up as B. Sai Praneeth lost to Saemsomboonsuk Tanongsak in three games.

Praneeth displayed his court craft in the closely-fought affair. Tanongsak’s unforced errors also contributed to Praneeth’s success. However, the Thai shuttler showcased some exquisite drop shots and smashes to stay in contention till 19-19. Praneeth got closer to snatching the first game through a quick shot close to the net. Tanongsak saw his backhand return find the net and Praneeth took the break with delight.

In the second game, the Thai player excelled with fine placements. Despite his mistakes, Praneeth played some impressive shots to stay in the hunt. The Indian, however, faltered, allowing Tanongsak to take the game and eventually the match.

Saina Nehwal recorded one of the fastest wins of the IBL so far as she crushed an unheralded Arundhati Panthawane, who replaced Nichaon Jindapon, in 28 minutes.

Delhi’s World No. 2 men’s doubles specialists, Kien Keat Koo and Boon Hoeng Tan, lived up to their reputation. They combined power with deft touches against V. Shem Goh and Tarun Kona.

Fans of former World and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat, who came in the place of H.S. Prannoy, were left disappointed as the Indonesian star went down to Daren Liew in a lopsided contest.

Delhi’s move to field V. Diju and Prajakta Sawant instead of Koo and G. Jwala paid off. Diju and Prajakta blocked a strong challenge from Goh and Pradnya Gadre to win the mixed doubles match 21-20, 21-15.

The results:

Pune Pistons bt Mumbai Masters 3-2 (Saurabh Verma lost to Vladimir Ivanov 21-16, 21-14; Juliane Schenk bt Tine Baun 11-21, 21-10, 11-7; Rupesh Kumar & Sanave Thomas lost to Vladimir Ivanov & Pranav Chopra 21-12, 20-21, 11-9; Tien Minh Nyugen bt Marc Zweibler 21-18, 21-13; Joachim Fischer Nielsen & Ashwini Ponnappa bt Pranav Chopra & Sikki Reddy 21-20, 21-13).

Hyderabad Hotshots lost to Krrish Delhi Smashers 2-3 (Saemsomboonsuk Tanongsak bt B. Sai Praneeth 19-21, 21-19, 11-7; Saina Nehwal bt Arundhati Panthawane 21-6, 21-8; V. Shem Goh & Tarun Kona lost to Kien Keat Koo & Boon Hoeng Tan 21-14, 21-20; Taufik Hidayat lost to Daren Liew 21-10, 21-7; V. Shem Goh & Pradnya Gadre lost to V. Diju & Prajakta Sawant 21-20, 21-15).

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