World No 10 Beiwen Zhang made a remarkable comeback to beat Saina Nehwal as the Awadhe Warriors beat the North Eastern Warriors to finish off their league stage in style in the Premier Badminton League at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Awadhe needed a minimum of four points to move up to the top position over the defending champions Hyderabad Hunters. And they got exactly that as Zhang cancelled the North Eastern trump Nehwal, while Ashwini Ponnappa and Mathias Christiansen got themselves a trump victory as well. Lee Dong Keun also contributed a win but world No 5 Son Wan Ho was upset.

The women’s singles face-off between the North Eastern Warriors’ Nehwal and the Awadhe Warriors’ Zhang had a surprising outcome. The world No 9 Nehwal was the higher ranked player in this encounter and even led 3-1 on the international circuit, but the 10th-ranked Zhang refused to be intimidated by Saina’s strong start and came back to win 11-15, 15-11, 15-7.

Given that the former world No 1 was the trump for her team, whatever little hopes they had of upsetting the Warriors were dashed.

While Nehwal’s smashes were on point in the opening game, she went off the boil in the second. The American managed to lift her game from an 8-8 tie and did just enough to thwart a Saina comeback.

In the decider, she was pretty much unstoppable. The Zhang juggernaut rolled on uninterruptedly, building a 12-6 lead before finishing off the big win.

Former world No. 1 Son Wan Ho had won his last three international matches against Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. But just like going against the norm was the trend of the evening, Son too fell 8-15, 10-15 to the North Eastern Warriors’ shuttler in a tie full of surprises.

Tanongsak never relented in his attack and Son found it hard to tackle him. At one point in the first game, the Korean trailed 5-12. In the second, Son fought till 7-7, after which the game slipped away from his grip.

Lee Dong Keun of the Awadhe Warriors had never beaten Tian Houwei in two meetings on the international circuit. But the world No 27 did not let his past record bother him and came thoroughly prepared to get a 15-10, 15-13 win.

The two were involved in some marathon rallies in the first half of the game. It was after the break that Keun made his move as Tian started erring, racing ahead to 11-8 and holding on it. The North-Eastern shuttler kept it all even until 7-7 after which Lee’s sharpness and mental fortitude helped him bag the win.

Mathias Christiansen and Ashwini Ponnappa have shown their wonderful chemistry this season, triumphing in three out of the five matches they have played. The Awadhe pair lived up to the expectations by securing the 15-7, 15-14 Trump win over Liao Min Chun and Kim Ha Na.

While the first game was a cakewalk for them, they had to dig deep in the second to come back from 9-11 down.

Delhi Dashers bow out with a win

PV Sindhu’s brilliant victory went in vain as former champions Delhi Dashers grabbed a 4-3 win over defending champions Hyderabad Hunters in the first tie of the day.

The loss, however, did not make any difference for the Hunters, who continue to enjoy the top position in the standings, with 24 points. As for Delhi, this was their first victory in six matches in what has been a season to forget.

Six-time Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza was at the stadium to cheer for Sindhu and the tennis star wasn’t disappointed. World No 32 Evgeniya Kosetskaya of the Dashers was no match for the BWF World Tour Finals winner. With the added responsibility of being the Hyderabad trump, the world No 3 was in no mood to relent and effortlessly finished a 15-11, 15-9 win.

In the first game, the Russian was able to keep it competitive till 7-7, after which Sindhu wrested away control of the proceedings. Sindhu’s pinpoint smashes helped her jump to 10-7 in the second game and she never allowed her opponent to come closer before wrapping up the match.

Earlier, HS Prannoy, who has struggled with a knee injury and breathing issues this season, made a winning return as he edged Hyderabad’s world No 146 Rahul Yadav Chittaboina 15-10, 9-15, 15-12. Prannoy’s blistering backhands were on song right from the word go and he opened up a 10-6 lead in the first game in no time.

However, with a few errors creeping into his game, the 2018 Asian Championships bronze medallist fell behind 4-8 in the second game. The lower-ranked Chittaboina seized this opportunity to set up a decider, where Prannoy found his form again. With his smashes finding their mark, the Delhi shuttler raced ahead to 7-3 before closing out the match.

Delhi rightly selected their men’s doubles pair of Chai Biao and Maneepong Jongjit as their trump for the day. Against the Hunters duo of Bodin Isara and Arun George, the pair looked slightly off-colour and conceded the first game 8-15.

However, that was a wake-up call for the trump pair. They rebounded strongly in the second and the third games to grab an 8-15, 15-8, 15-8 victory.

Tommy Sugiarto and Mark Caljouw had never met on the international circuit before. But there was no surprise in their first-ever meeting as world No 9 Sugiarto made short work of the Hyderabad player 15-6, 15-11 in a performance that was one of the very best from the Indonesian.

The former world championships bronze medallist built a 5-1 advantage in a flash and it soon became a seven-point difference between them as Sugiarto went up to 11-4. In the second game, the experienced Indonesian once more did not let the Dutchman play his naturally aggressive game. The tactic worked beautifully in favour of the Delhi brigade as the Season 1 MVP pocketed the win.

Hyderabad, however, weren’t disheartened by the smashing display from the former champions. They made up for it by finishing the tie on a high with a win in mixed doubles. Kim Sa Rang and Eom Hye Won teamed up to get a 15-7, 15-12 win over Delhi’s Wang Sijie and Chia Hsin Lee.