Awadhe Warriors’ home-grown stars will once again be put to the test against the best from overseas, when it faces Mumbai Masters in the IBL semifinal here on Thursday.
The Lucknow franchise — spearheaded by the impressive P.V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth — had posted a 3-2 win over Mumbai when the teams met at the same venue during the league stage. Sindhu prevailed over former All-England champion Tine Baun, while Srikanth lost a close encounter to World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
Sindhu’s close win over Baun came during a stirring turnaround, which has reflected a change in fortunes for her team as well.
The 18-year-old lost her opening two singles in the competition, with Warriors going down in both ties to find themselves at the bottom of the points table.
However, a three-match winning streak — including an upset victory over Pistons’ World No. 3 Juliane Schenk — helped seal a semifinal spot by finishing second.
While the Warriors hold the edge in the lone women’s singles, Mumbai boasts a formidable line-up among the men. Apart from Lee Chong, the towering Vladimir Ivanov will continue to pose a threat.
The Russian may not be ranked in the top 40, but his height and reach has seen him scalp some favoured names.
Bangalore’s icon player P. Kashyap, an early casualty, described Ivanov as a “tricky and unusual player”.
The Indian predicted Ivanov to be the surprise package of the tournament, and he has been proven right.
The 26-year-old serves Mumbai well in the mixed doubles too, with his intimidating net-play. Ivanov and Sikki Reddy, however, lost to Markis Kido and Pia Bernadeth in their previous meeting. The men’s doubles favours Awadhe Warriors, and barring an upset in the singles, a spot in the final could well come down to taking two vital points in the paired events.