Sindhu wins the battle between experience and youthful exuberance against Schenk
Awadhe Warriors marched into the semifinals in style, scoring a 3-2 win over Pune Pistons thanks to a powerful display by K. Srikanth and icon player P.V. Sindhu in its last league encounter of the Indian Badminton League here on Monday.
In the first match of the evening, Srikanth ensured a winning start for Warriors despite being sluggish early on. The 20-year-old threw enough hints of his new-found confidence at this level as he staged a remarkable comeback after trailing 3-9 in the first game to get the better of Saurabh Verma 21-18, 21-16.
When Verma was picking up points at will with some delectable half-smashes and precise cross-court returns early in the match, Srikanth struggled to find his groove.
But, Srikanth changed gears with a deadly mix of stunning smashes and wonderful net dribbles. Srikanth ran up a convincing 9-1 lead in the second game even before Saurabh could realise what was happening and came up with splendid, controlled aggression to clinch the issue.
In the much-awaited women’s singles match, crowd favourite Sindhu did not disappoint her fans as she came up with a wonderful rearguard action to down the 30-year-old World No. 3 Juliane Schenk of Germany in the second match of the evening.
The local girl lived up to the expectations and won the battle between experience and youthful exuberance to record her first win — 21-20, 21-20 — in three head-to-head clashes against Schenk.
Schenk had her moments in the first game, especially when she played a great smash after a long rally at 19-18. This after both the players committed service faults at 17-all.
A quick response by Sindhu — a big smash — saw her level the scores again but a terrific half-smash by Schenk saw her take a 20-19 lead. Then the German saw her cross-court, backhand return go out.
It was almost a similar script in the second game too with Schenk surprisingly showing greater energy levels — engaging in some stunning rallies and often winning big points. But, a few unforced errors in crunch situations saw Sindhu claw back from a 15-18 deficit. A change of racquet did not see any change in fortunes either for Schenk as she fumbled at critical junctures with her returns often landing in the net.
On the other hand, Sindhu raised her level of the game and a delectable half-smash saw her level the scores 20-all. She then followed it up with an awesome smash in a flash to win the match and ensure Warriors a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Later, the Warriors’ men’s doubles duo of Markis Kido and Mathias Boe scored a fluent 21-15, 21-16 win over the pair of Arun Vishnu and Sanave Thomas.
The consolation win for Pistons came when Tien Minh Nyugen got the better of R.M.V. Gurusaidutt 21-12, 21-18.
Several permutations and combinations are on the cards if Banga Beats (with nine points from four matches till now) pulls off a5-0 win over Hyderabad Hotshots on Tuesday.
For at the end of Monday’s match, Warriors and Pistons have 16 points each after completing their five league matches and are assured of semifinal berths while Hyderabad Hotshots has 15 from four with one match to go on Tuesday and Mumbai Masters has 15 points with no more matches on hand.
The results: Awadhe Warriors bt Pune Pistons 3-2 (K. Srikanth bt Saurabh Verma 21-18, 21-16; P.V. Sindhu bt Juliane Schenk 21-20, 21-20; Markis Kido & Mathias Boe bt Arun Vishnu & Sanave Thomas 21-15, 21-16; R.M.V. Gurusaidutt lost to Tien Minh Nyugen 12-21, 18-21; Joachim Nielsen Fischer & Ashwini Ponnappa bt Kido & Pia Z. Bernadet 21-16, 21-14).