Pune 7 Aces fell to their second straight defeat in the fourth season of the Premier Badminton League as they lost to Awadhe Warriors narrowly 3-4 at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai on Monday.
World No 5 Son Wan Ho and men’s doubles pair Yang Lee and Mathias Christiansen won the first two matches of the tie for the Warriors, before world champion Carolina Marin and India’s Lakshya Sen brought Pune 7 Aces back into the contest. Ashwini Ponnappa and Christiansen then won a tight mixed doubles match to seal the tie for the Warriors.
In the first match of the tie, Pune’s Brice Leverdez had a great chance to put Son Wan Ho under pressure as the Frenchman began well and held game point at 14-13. However, two costly errors from the 32-year-old handed Son the advantage in the match, as he won the first game 15-14.
That first game seemed to take the stuffing out of Leverdez as he looked switched off in the second game, even as Son got into his rhythm. The Korean wasted no time in bagging the game 15-7 to seal the first match of the tie for his team. The Awadhe Warriors had picked this clash as their trump match, which meant Son got an extra point for his team.
Next up was the men’s doubles, with Pune7Aces’ Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov taking on Awadhe Warriors’ Yang Lee and Mathias Christiansen. Boe and Ivanov started off strong, taking a 6-2 lead early on. However, Yang and Christiansen fought back to level the scores at 8-8 before surging ahead.
Caught unawares, Boe and Ivanov lost their rhythm and committed one too many errors, as Awadhe Warriors won the first game 15-12. The Warriors carried that momentum into the second game, as they opened up a substantial 12-6 lead in the second game. The match seemed out of reach for Pune, but two uncharacteristic errors from Awadhe narrowed the gap to four points. From there, Pune sniffed a comeback.
Boe and Ivanov upped the pace of their game and gave it their all, eventually levelling the scores at 13-13. It became 14-14 from there, before a good return of service from Yang won them the match and a 3-0 lead in the tie.
It was then up to Olympic gold medallist Marin to open her team’s account in not just this tie but the season. Having lost all five matches in their opening tie against Hyderabad Hunters on the first day of this season, PBL’s newest franchise was under pressure as they entered their trump match of the tie against Awadhe Warriors.
Marin added to the nerves of the Pune fans initially, as she was a bit slow off the blocks against world No 10 Beiwen Zhang. The Spaniard trailed trailing 7-9 in the first game, before eventually getting into top gear. As she went into the lead at 12-11, she let out her first real shriek of the match, before bagging the game 15-13.
Marin carried the momentum into the second game as she raced to an 8-1 lead. A few unforced errors after the interval allowed Zhang to fight back to 11-8, but Marin was in no mood to let up as she sealed the game 15-9, thereby handing her team their first match win of the season and two vital points.
The 17-year-old Lakshya Sen was next up for the Pune7Aces in the second men’s singles match, against Awadhe’s experienced shuttler Lee Dong Keun. Sen got off to a good start as he started attacking the Korean and took an 8-3 lead into the interval of the first game.
Lee improved his retrieving after the interval as he closed the gap to 12-9, even as the two shuttlers engaged in a couple of long rallies. However, Sen held his composure to bag the game 15-11 and take the lead in the match.
Lee continued to retrieve well and elongate the points as much as possible in the second game, in a bid to tire Sen. The game was tight until the interval, when Sen led 8-6, but the Indian ran away with the match after that, winning it 15-11, 15-8 to level the tie 3-3.
It was then down to the mixed doubles match to settle the tie. Ashwini Ponnappa and Mathias Christiansen got the Awadhe Warriors off to a good start as they comfortably won the first game 15-8 against Pune’s Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt and Ivanov.
Kjaersfeldt, who specialises in singles, and Ivanov played a lot better in the second game as they kept Ponnappa and Christiansen on their toes. Then, to the delight of the spectators, most of whom were supporting Pune, Kjaersfeldt and Ivanov went on to win the game 15-11 to take the match into a decider.
The deciding game was tight as ever as both pairs went hammer and tongs at each other. However, the Warriors’ doubles specialists used their experience to win the game 15-12 to put the tie to bed.
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