Bengaluru Raptors, in front of their raucous home crowd at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, were crowned champions of Premier Badminton League season 4 after a thrilling 4-3 win over Mumbai Rockets on Sunday.
At 3-3, the Indonesian duo of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan clinched the deciding rubber against Rockets’ Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae 15-13, 15-10 to seal the championship for Raptors.
Gi Jung and Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth had put the Rockets 2-0 ahead with a 15-8, 15-14 win over Raptors’ English duo of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith.
Gi Jung and Bernadeth were at ease mostly, besting Ellis and Smith 15-8 in the first game. The trump pair of the Rockets coordinated better than their opponents. On several occasions, they wrong-footed Ellis and Smith.
The second game, to the delight of the home fans, was close. The Raptors and Rockets’ pairs alternated points. Gi Jung and Bernadeth pulled away a bit, going 12-10 up but Ellis and Smith clawed back. But at 14-14, Gi Jung and Bernadeth held their nerves to clinch the match.
Kidambi Srikanth, meanwhile, hardly broke a sweat to beat Rockets’ Anders Antonsen 15-7, 15-10 and remain unbeaten in the league. The form he showcased throughout the tournament augurs well for his upcoming international season.
Thi Trang Vu, then, put the hosts 3-2 up with a 15-8, 15-9 defeat of Shriyanshi Pardeshi. The latter’s strategy to extend the rallies in the first game did not work as Trang Vu, Raptors’ trump player, won most of the long exchanges. Shriyanshi erred a lot trying to attack more in the second game.
At 3-2, Sameer Verma had the opportunity to avenge his group game defeat against B Sai Praneeth and save the tie for the Rockets. He overcame a stuttering start to beat his compatriot 7-15, 15-12, 15-3.
Sai Praneeth was unstoppable in the first game, quicker and surer than his younger opponent. He bossed Sameer in the beginning, racing to an 8-1 lead. Sameer, it seemed, curbed his attack after making a flurry of unforced errors. And, Sai Praneeth went for the kill: he raced to a 11-3 lead, made a few errors but pocketed the first game.
Sai Praneeth’s level dipped in the second game, and that allowed Sameer to claw his way back into the match. Sai Praneeth had a slender lead of 8-7 but he netted once and smashed wide at 11-11 to let Sameer wrest control of the game and win it.
Sai Praneeth, despite receiving advice from his captain Kidambi Srikanth, looked tentative in the third game. After 3-5, he lost 10 points in a row to lose the match and take the tie to a decider.