Back on court after missing the first outing due to injury world No 2 Saina Nehwal notched up a comfortable straight-game victory in their Trump match over P C Thulashi in women’s singles to guide Awadhe Warriors to a convincing victory over Delhi Aces in their Premier Badminton League (PBL) match in Lucknow .
Olympic bronze medallist Saina, B Sai Praneeth and doubles pair of Bodin Issara and Cai Yun won their respective matches to take an unassailable 4-1 lead over Delhi in their second tie, after they had gone down fighting against Mumbai Rockets 2-3 in their last outing.
Star of Awadhe Warriors’ last match S Tanongsak started the proceedings as he played the opening men’s singles against Delhi Aces’ Tommy Sugiarto but the Thai shuttler could not repeat a winning performance as the former World No 3 Indonesian registered a 15-13, 15-11 win to draw the first blood in the five-match tie.
“He was very good. While I won the match in two games but he gave me a tough fight. I had to keep a complete check on his shots as he mixed it very well. I am happy I won and opened the account for my team,” Sugiarto said.
Saina, who had skipped the inaugural match due to a foot injury, enthralled the audience with a dominating game to take her team to a 2-1 lead after beating P C Thulasi 15-9 15-10 in the women’s singles match, which Awadhe Warriors had selected as the ‘Trump match’.
Thulasi opened up a slender 2-0 lead early on but Saina clearly wasn’t exerting herself too much because of the injury. Lagging 3-5, Saina dominated a long rally and then drew level when Thulasi hit wide.
Thulasi didn’t have answers to Saina low returns as the Warriors captain went into the break at 8-5 with Thulashi struggling to keep the shuttle on court. In the end, Saina wrapped the first game 15-9.
Cheered on by PBL Brand Ambassador and Bollywood superstar actor Akshay Kumar and actress Nimrat Kaur at the stands, Saina produced some spectacular shots which Thulashi failed to negotiate. Saina lead 6-2 and then hit the net twice but she never lost the tempo and continued to lead 8-5.
Saina used power and placement to bamboozle Thulashi and lead 13-9, before wrapping the match with a return that left her rival clueless once again as the Warriors bagged two points from the match. Commenting on the win, Saina said: “She started off well and she is good with her net play and I enjoyed playing those shots with her.
“It is great to win in front of your home crowd. It was my first match of the League and it produced a productive result as it was a Trump match for our side. We hope to win the tie from here”.