Bengaluru Raptors created history to become the first-ever team to successfully defend their title as the Premier Badminton League 2020 concluded at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday. World Championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth and World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying led the Bengaluru Raptors from the front before the mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Eom Hye Won sealed the 4-2 win over the North Eastern Warriors, who were in the final for the very first time.
With the two teams locked at 2-2 in the overall tie after the first the three matches, it was left to their respective mixed doubles pairs to push them ahead. Bengaluru’s Trump pair of Olympic silver medallist Chan Peng Soon and two-time World Championships medallist Eom Hye Won showed their vast experience to pull off a 15-14, 14-15, 15-12 win over the Warriors’ Krishna Prasad Garaga and former World No. 1 Kim Ha Na and bag the tie for the Raptors.
Soon and Won showed nerves of steel to eke out the tight first game. In a topsy-turvy second game, the Warriors pair led 6-4 before facing a match point which they saved to take match into a decider.
The Raptors pair regained control in the deciding game to race ahead to 8-2. They held off a late surge from the blue brigade, who came within one point of the Raptors at 11-12 and went on to grab the win.
Having lost to the 2020 Indonesia Masters semi-finalist in their solitary league face-off this season, Sai needed to find his best form against the World No. 18 Lee Cheuk Yiu. The World No. 11, who was upset by the 73rd ranked Kazumasa Sakai of the Pune 7 Aces in the semi-finals yesterday, began on the backfoot as the two were involved in a highly competitive opening game that tested the grit and resolve of both. Lee edged Sai 15-14 but that woke up the champion in the former Singapore Open winner.
Sai, who has fond memories of winning the PBL title last year with the Raptors, found his aggression just in time to turn around the match. By injecting more pace and power into his shots, the Bengaluru shuttler grabbed the second game 15-9 and kept the momentum going to take a mind-blowing 11-1 lead in the decider. With Lee peppering the court with unforced errors, it did not take Sai much time to finish the comeback with a 14-15, 15-9, 15-3 victory.
With a 7-2 head-to-head record over the World No. 10 Michelle Li on the BWF World Tour, World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying came prepared to tackle the Warriors shuttler with her deception and finesse. Li kept struggling to read Tai’s game in the opening game as the Chinese Taipei ace surged to a 15-9 lead.
The second game turned out to be way more competitive with the aggressive Canadian using her brilliant footwork to put her formidable opponent out of position. From a 1-4 deficit, Li stormed back to level matters at 7-7 and even wrested the lead to go up to 9-8 with the Raptors ace fumbling at the net. But the resilient Tai soon found her way back by relentlessly targeting the lines before completing a 15-9, 15-12 win.
Earlier, in a nail-biting men’s doubles encounter, 2008 Olympic mixed doubles champion Lee Yong Dae and former World No. 7 Bodin Isara of the Warriors held their nerves to grind out a spectacular 15-11, 13-15, 15-14 Trump win against Bengaluru’s Arun George and Rian Agung Saputro.
The Korean-Thai combine of the North Eastern Warriors had the upper hand in the initial stages of the match. In a dramatic turnaround in the second game, they lost three consecutive points from 13-12 to concede the second game in the face of onslaught from Arun George.
The Bengaluru duo kept maintaining the tempo to inch ahead to 8-6 and then to 13-11 in the decider. With the Raptors having a match point, the Warriors got a second chance when Saputro made a service error. Lee Yong Dae grabbed the opportunity to get the highly entertaining win that had the crowd on the edge of their seats.