Hyderabad: In a fitting finale that went down to the wire, Hyderabad Hunters overcame a fighting Bengaluru Blasters to become the champions of the third Premier Badminton League at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.
India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Indonesia’s Pia Bernadet put up a dominant display in the last encounter of the clash, the Mixed Doubles, to clinch the the title and the winners’ prize purse for the Hunters.
Cheered on by a packed house and a vociferous team, they beat Kim Sa Rang (Korea) and N Sikki Reddy (India) 15-11, 15-12. The tall Satwiksairaj unleashed an array of powerful strokes to set up a well-deserved victory for the home side.
The match went to script, with the Blasters’ World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen and the Hunters’ former world champion Carlina Marin winning their respective matches to make it 3-3 after the first four matches.
The Hunters began on the back foot, with their Men’s Doubles pair of Markis Kido & Yoo Yeon Seong failing to get into their groove and losing the first point.
They found the Blasters’ Mathias Boe & Kim Sa Rang too hot to handle and gave in 0-2 without much of a fight. The stout Kido, who had controlled the game from the back of the court, just couldn’t make his powerful smashes work.
It didn’t help that his understanding with his partner Yoo Yeon was not top notch, allowing their opponents to exploit vast open spaces in the court.
The Hunters came back into the tie strongly, with their Trump player Lee Hyun Il coming up with a near immaculate game. The Korean was calm personified, dictating the pace and tone of the match to beat Subhanker Dey 2-0.
Lee Hyun, a southpaw, defended brilliantly, receiving everything that Subhanker threw at him. He kept the rallies going long until he found the perfect shot to finish off the point.
He shot away to a 4-2 and 8-5 lead even as Subhanker was trying to figure him out. Lee Hyun rode on the momentum to take the opening game 15-7.
The Korean fell behind at the start of the game, making a few unforced errors. He, however, fought back from 0-2 and 1-4 down to jump into the lead at 6-4. He seemed to be cruising at 9-6 but his concentration wavered and he gave away a couple of easy points.
Subhanker took advantage of the lapses to catch him at 10-10. Lee Hyun inched ahead 12-10 but saw him by his side at 13-13 again. But he produced two winners to seal the game and match 15-13.
Axelsen then demolished Sai Praneeth to win his Trump match and give his side a slight edge. He played with authority to win over the home fans, who had come to cheer their Hyderabaddies, and the third match of the tie 15-5, 15-10.
The Blasters were 2-1 (3-2) on points at the midway stage. But former World No. 1 Carolina Marin promptly regained the initiative for the Hunters, winning the Women’s Singles match 2-0 next.
She easily beat Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, playing a smart and controlled game. Carolina won 15-8, 15-14 to take the encounter to the decider. She did suffer a major scare as Kirsty fought back from 4-8 down to make it 11-9.
But Carolina stayed cool and regained the lead, and kept her never over the next few points too to win the clash.
Hyderabad Hunters bt Bengaluru Blasters
Men’s Doubles: Markis Kido-Yoo Yeon Seong lost to Mathias Boe-Kim Sa Rang 9-15, 10-15
Men’s Singles: (T) Lee Hyun Il bt Subhanker Dey 15-7, 15-13
Men’s Singles: Sai Praneeth lost to Viktor Axelsen (T) 8-15, 10-15
Women’s Singles: Carolina Marin bt Kirsty Gilmour 15-8, 15-14.
Mixed Doubles: Pia Bernadet-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy bt Kim Sa Rang-N Sikki Reddy 15-11, 15-12