Hyderabad: Local boy Satwiksairaj Rankireddy showed how far he has progressed from the last edition of the Premier Badminton League as he teamed up with the experienced Pia Zebadiah Bernadet to win the deciding mixed doubles match and helped Hyderabad Hunters clinch the title, beating Bengaluru Blasters on Sunday.
With both teams locked at 3-3 after four matches, the pressure was on the hosts as the Blasters combination of N Sikki Reddy and Kim Sa Rang were on a high after winning a similar clash in the semi-finals against Ahmedabad Smash Masters.
However, the towering Satwik with his explosive jump smashes ensured that the opponents had little chance of cornering glory. The 17-year-old, who was the find of the last edition, was relentless in his attacks and was smart enough to shield the tiring Pia in the second game as the pair won the match 15-11, 15-12 to kick start wild celebrations on the team bench.
The champions had blanked the Blasters when the two teams met in the last league encounter at the same venue but no one was expecting a similar whitewash in the final with world champion Viktor Axelsen, who was rested for that game, listed to play the trump for the latter.
But the Hunters were still the favourites with their singles stars Lee Hyun Il and Carolina Marin expected to win their respective matches and it was imperative for the Blasters to make a strong start with men’s doubles.
The experienced combination of Mathias Boe and Kim Sa Rang did not disappoint their fans, who were clearly outnumbered in the Gachibowli Stadium, by beating Hunters’ Markis Kido and Yoo Yeon Seong 15-9, 15-10.
The Blasters sought to change their fortune in the second men’s singles by fielding Shubhakar Dey instead of Chong Wei Feng, who had lost to Saurabh Verma in the semifinals. But that hardly made any difference as the experienced Lee toyed with the Indian journeyman to give the Hunters the lead.
Axelsen then once again proved that he has been playing at a completely different level and there are not many who can challenge him at this stage. Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth, who had upset Tian Houwei of Delhi Dashers in the semifinal, was all at sea against the 24-year-old Dane.
He kept the rallies short and when Sai managed to push him into longer battles, he would more often than not find a winner, claiming the match 15-8, 15-10 and give Blasters a 3-2 lead.
If the Blasters hoped that the must-win encounter could put pressure on Hunters’ star Marin, it did not happen. The two-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist was in complete control of the opening game against Kristy Gilmour. The Scottish player did put up a fight in the second game and managed to save a match point but the Spaniard did not give her an opportunity to force a decider by raising the pace of the final rally.
She won the match 15-8, 15-14 and was was soon back to cheer Satwik and Pia. The pair ensured that the Olympic champion had the last laugh along with her teammates.