World Championship silver medalist PV Sindhu began the New Year with a morale-boosting win over compatriot Saina Nehwal to give defending champions Hyderabad Hunters a 3-1 lead over North Eastern Warriors in the fourth edition of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the Balewadi stadium in Pune on Tuesday.
Sindhu, who had lost her last two matches in the PBL against Sung Ji Hyun and Beiwen Zhang, was keen to start the year with a win and there couldn't have been a bigger opponent across the net than Saina as the two shuttle queens of Indian badminton would have been keen to earn the bragging rights early in the year. Sindhu finally ended the match with a 11-15, 15-9, 15-5 win.
Saina, who had sat out of the earlier three matches of North Eastern Warriors due to a shin injury, was definitely not 100 percent and was seen struggling for stamina following long rallies but the way she fought back from a 7-10 deficit to clinch seven straight points and then wrap up the opening game showed that the former world number one was not going to go out without a fight.
But Sindhu simply managed to raise the tempo in the second game as she raced to an 8-3 lead and though Saina fought back to close the gap to 6-8, the 23-year-old always looked in control.
Saina clearly looked tired in the third and final game and Sindhu simply dominated the proceedings thereafter as the Commonwealth Games gold medallist struggled to lunge towards her forehand and lost the decider rather easily.
Earlier, the experienced Lee Hyun Il got the Hunters back into the contest from the brink as he fought back from a game down to win the trump match against Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.
With the Hunters trailing 0-1 following the 8-15, 14-15 loss of Kim Sa Rang and Eom Hye Won in the opening mixed doubles match against Kim Ha Na and Liao Min Chun, Lee had to win the team's trump.
And it looked an arduous task when Tanongsak dominated the opening game and looked on a roll. But Lee is a veteran of many a battles and the 38-year-old showed why he is still considered the most dangerous opponent on the circuit as he moved his Thai opponent all around the court to take a 7-1 lead in the second game, and then held on to the advantage to force a decider.
Tanongsak seemed to lose steam after the Lee masterclass in the second game as he was always chasing the game in the decider. The Hunters earned two points with a 10-15, 15-13, 15-9 win before Saina and Sindhu took the court for the Super Match of the Day in front of a packed stadium, as the league now proceeds to Ahmedabad.