World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth of Bengaluru Raptors held his nerves to beat Mumbai Rockets’ Parupalli Kashyap in a nerve-wracking contest to help the defending champions remain in contention for the semi-finals at the 2020 Premier Badminton League held at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

In an absolute spectacle of a badminton match that saw two of India’s best men’s singles shuttlers locking horns, the Raptors Trump Praneeth edged the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion 15-14, 14-15, 15-14.

Kashyap came out firing right from the first point. Raining his smashes down relentlessly, the World No 25 had Sai on the ropes initially as he surged to a big 8-2 lead. It was only after the break in the first game that the World Championships bronze medallist was able to find his aggression as he closed the gap to 9-11 in a remarkable turnaround.

Praneeth used body smashes to tie the score at 14-14 before the game point was decided on a challenge and it went in favour of the Bengaluru player.

High on confidence after making such a strong comeback in the first game, Praneeth kept his momentum going to race away to 4-1 in the second game before soaring to 8-5. Kashyap smartly mixed it up after that to put the World No 11 Praneeth out of his comfort zone. His efforts were soon rewarded as the two were level on 10-10 and then 13-13. Praneeth found his down-the-line smash to save a game point but soon saw Kashyap summoning his own attacking game to take the match to a decider.

The match reached its climax in the decider with both showing exceptional defence. With both refusing to break down, the highly exciting match reached a 7-7 tie. In a heartstopping finish to the match that had the crowd on the edge, the two remained on level terms till 14-14 in one of the most dramatic matches this season. An exhausted Sai pushed the shuttle to the backcourt on match point to seal the mind-blowing match.

In a clash of youth and experience in women’s singles, Mumbai’s Shriyanshi Pardeshi began well against World No 2 Tai Tzu Ying to have a slender lead of 4-3 before the Raptors ace stormed back to inch ahead to 8-6. Having wrested the momentum, Tai did not waste any time to pocket the opener at 15-8.

Tai opened up a 4-0 lead in the second game and raced away to an 8-3 lead. Pardeshi, however, showed excellent retrieving skills to engage Tai in a 28-shot rally and get to within two points of the former World No. 1 at 7-9.

A couple of errors from Tai allowed her young opponent to remain on her heels at 11-12. But the Chinese Taipei ace was soon able to regroup and steer her way to a 15-8, 15-12 win to remain unbeaten this season.

Earlier, the Mumbai Rockets began the tie with a fantastic performance in men’s doubles. Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang combined to take a gritty 13-15, 15-8, 15-10 win against Bengaluru’s Arun George and Rian Agung Saputro.

North Eastern Warriors see off Chennai Superstarz

Earlier in the day, North Eastern Warriors edged the Chennai Superstarz 4-3 to grab the top spot in an exciting face-off between two of the most in-form teams at the Premier Badminton League. With both having qualified for the semi-finals, it was the final league match for both as they looked to boost their confidence ahead of the knock-out stages.

With the two teams being tied on 22 points, North Eastern Warriors inched ahead by virtue of having 13 wins while Chennai has 10 wins against their name.

For the Warriors, 2020 Indonesia Masters semi-finalist Lee Cheul Yiu, Kaushal Dharmamer, and the mixed doubles pair of Lee Yong Dae and Kim Ha Na contributed the wins to take them to victory.