Despite Olympic champion Carolina Marin taking a backseat, Pune 7 Aces hit the front by pocketing the women’s singles and men’s doubles against Mumbai Rockets in the opening tie of the 4th Premier Badminton League third leg. Stepping on court with his team cushioned by a 3-0 lead, Lakshya Sen went down in a hard-fought singles clash against Anders Antonsen.
Sameer Verma cut short Harsheel Dani’s aspirations as Rockets drew level 3-3. However, it was the mixed doubles pair of Line Kjaersfeldt and Vladimir Ivanov that delivered in the decisive match to seal a rousing 4-3 victory.
Kjaersfeldt, successful in Europe and fielded by Pune 7 Aces in women’s singles, teamed up with Ivanov to win a three-game thriller as the home fans roared with the double specialists on each point.
“It is tough to play women’s singles when it is a Trump Match, then come back for the mixed doubles. I have played with Vladimir before and knew we had the game to win,” said Kjaersfeldt, chosen instead of Marin.
Pune Aces captain, Mathias Boe noted: “Playing Line was a team decision, because as the tournament progresses, it will get more tougher for everyone and we knew her qualities in mixed doubles and singles.”
The Pune captain’s faith in young Lakshya’s abilities against a seasoned pro from Europe made the men’s singles tie the most matched contest. He was at the receiving end of Antonsen’s smashes in the first game and made amends with a change in tactics in the second game, catching his rival by surprise with a flatter forehand return, almost like a jab in boxing.
In the first two games, the Dane gifted points by finding the net in the anxiety to hit winners. But made good use of the backhand flick by sending the shuttle scurrying to the corners and make the Indian stretch.
The Pune Aces youngster rattled his opponent with his stinging overhead smashes, but were not enough to make an impact. Taking a higher ranked Antonsen to three games is a sign of Lakshyas progress in senior ranks. The home side chose three young Indians, Harsheel in singles and Chirag Shetty in men’s doubles, the latter matched senior partner Ivanov step for step, the Russian also won both doubles ties to push Pune towards first PBL win after two losses in the first leg.
North Eastern Warriors wins
North Eastern Warriors gained a clear lead over Delhi Dashers after three matches, winning the women’s singles, men’s doubles and men’s singles. Rituparna Das, Tanonsak Saensombonsuk won the singles ties, the latter clinched a Trump Match opted by Dashers against Tommy Sugiarto to lead with two matches remaining. In the fourth tie, Houwei defeated Prannoy while the inconsequential mixed doubles went to the Dashers.
Pune 7 Aces bt Mumbai Rockets 4-3 (Line Kjaersfeldt (T) bt Shreyanshi Pardeshi 15-11, 15-7; Vladimir Ivanov & Chirag Shetty bt Lee Yong Dae & Kim Gi Jung lost to 15-14, 15-7; Lakshya Sen lost to Anders Antonsen (T) 13-15, 15-7, 6-15; Harsheel Dani lost to Sameer Verma 7-15, 10-15; Line Kjaersfeldt & Vladimir Ivanov bt Pia Bernadeth & Kin Gi Jung 15-13, 11-15, 15-12.
North Eastern Warriors bt Delhi Dashers 3-0 (Rituparna Das bt Evgenia Kosetskaya 15-13 15-9; Lao Min Chun & Yoo Yeon Seong bt Sije Wang & Chai Bao 15-9, 15-8; Tanongsah Saensombonsuk bt Tommy Sugiarto 15-5, 15-12; T. Houwei bt H.S. Prannoy 12-15, 15-7, 15-14; M. Jongjit & E. Kosetskaya bt L.M. Chun and K.H. Na 15-12, 7-15, 14-15.