PBL 2018 | Awadhe Masters churn out a hard-fought victory against Ahmedabad Smash Masters

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PBL 2018 | Awadhe Masters churn out a hard-fought victory against Ahmedabad Smash Masters

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SportsCafe Desk

01/02/2018

After Prannoy and Tai set up Ahmedabad for a tie-breaker with their respective wins over Srikanth and Nehwal, Nandagopal and Reginald failed to grasp the opportunity. Ahmedabad had a great chance to win the match but Sourabh Verma squandered five match points against Kashyap.

Man and Pedersen get the better of Him and Juhl in an error-filled duel

Having a poor start has now become quite synonymous with Ahmedabad’s mixed doubles duo. After starting on the back foot on each of the previous two occasions, Juhl, with new partner Him, had a shaky beginning this time as well with Pedersen and Man winning three straight points to go into the break 8-4. The Smash Masters, however, reduced the margin to 9-8 buoyed by some resilient display by Juhl. The game remained closely competitive following that as the score flashed 14-14 before Man failed to clear the net to gift Ahmedabad the first game. The Smash Masters started the second game on the defensive as Awadhe were quick to go up 2-0 but Juhl levelled the proceedings at 3-3 with a beautifully executed net shot. However, the Warriors weren’t letting the lead slip this time as they went into the break 8-5. They led 10-6 following the break before Tang’s ever-increasing errors meant Ahmedabad came crawling back to make it 14-10. However, Ahmedabad’s promising comeback was thwarted by Him who hit the net and helped Awadhe level the match. The deciding game started off on a competitive note with neither side letting their opponent breathe easy before two back-to-back errors by Pedersen saw Ahmedabad get three straight points to lead 7-4. Though Awadhe made some comebacks here and there, Ahmedabad didn’t lose their lead until the very end at 13-13, when an increasingly confident Tang levelled things with a venomous body smash and then lead at 14-13. Though Ahmedabad leveled things at 14-14, Pedersen managed to eventually find the winner in the enthralling duel.

Kashyap outplays Sourabh in a thrilling three-gamer

After being on the receiving end of a convincing defeat at the hands of IL in the last match, Sourabh needed to make some significant adjustments to his game this time and his offensive and positive start reflected that. He won two straight points and Kashyap made sure to sweat him out for the second one. Though Kashyap opened his account, Verma looked unperturbed by it as he went into the break 8-5. Kashyap started fighting back after the break winning four straight points to lead 9-8. However, Sourabh regained his composure from thereon and although Kashyap had his rare moments, the Masters' star went to win the game 15-11. The second game started on a more competitive note before Sourabh took a 4-2 lead after both shared two points each. However, Kashyap wasn’t letting his last chance of the day go and he took the lead at 7-6 ending an enthralling rally with a fierce smash, before he went into the break 8-7. Verma exhibited slight lax in his efforts after the game and before he could realize, Kashyap was leading 11-8. Following that, it was Kashyap’s turn to lose focus and Sourabh didn’t waste the chance to equalize at 11-11. However, Kashyap didn’t let his momentary lapse stop his momentum and went on to win the game 15-13 and equalize the match 1-1. The third game saw Verma in his offensive avatar of the first-half as he went on to the break 8-3, completely dominating Kashyap. But, as has been Sourabh’s flaw this match, he failed to retain his consistency yet again letting Kashyap a way in at 9-9. Kashyap gave away an easy point next, allowing Verma to lead 10-9 and Ahmedabad looked favorites to win against Awadhe's Trump as Sourabh went on to lead 14-10. But, Kashyap left everyone stunned with an incredible comeback to win the match 15-14.

Prannoy tames an uncharacteristically passive Srikanth 

The most anticipated game of the evening started in a one-sided manner with Prannoy leading 6-2 in no time as Srikanth started in his characteristic slow manner as he went into the break trailing 8-2. Though the crowd got to see a better version of Awadhe’s superstar after the break, a determined and confident Prannoy was not one to squander his hard-earned lead like his teammates in previous games, as he went on to the seal the first game quite comfortably at 15-8. Srikanth, who didn’t look anything like his otherwise dangerous and offensive self in the first game, turned on the heat in the second as he led 4-1. But, the mercurial Prannoy came back strong to go into the break 8-5. With Ahmedabad losing the first two games, which included a crucial trump card defeat, Prannoy needed to win this desperately and he looked like a man on a mission. Srikanth was hardly given a chance to make an impact whatsoever as Prannoy ran onto lead 14-7. Though Srikanth came close with some quick points to reduce the margin at 11-14, Prannoy sealed the match soon after.

Saina Nehwal no match for Tai Tzu Ying

With Ahmedabad sniffing a chance of a genuine comeback, Saina Nehwal had an uphill task of beating World No. 1 Ying in her singles clash, and her difficulty in overcoming the Taiwanese was quite evident in the manner the game kicked off. The Indian hardly questioned Ying who went into the break leading comfortably at 8-4. The Chinese Taipei showed unbelievable control over her shots and body and forced Nehwal to sweat at every inch of the court leading the game 12-4 before Nehwal managed to get her next point, that too from Ying’s error. She sealed the game 15-5 with Ahmedabad already looking at the deciding match of the men’s doubles. Saina started aggressively in the second game leading 3-0 within a flash before Ying started weaving her comeback to lead 4-3 with straight points before going into the break 8-6. Nehwal showed yet another rejuvenated spell following the break and led at a crucial 12-11 but was visibly out of breath by then and Ying capitalized on it before winning the close game 15-14 and levelling the tie 3-3.

Nandagopal and Reginald fail to save the tie against Man and Setiaman

Ahmedabad’s men’s duo didn’t start in the brightest of manner either with Setiawan and Tang leading 5-2 even when the pair of Reginald and Nandagopal were getting used to the paces. Awadhe went into the break leading 8-5. Their dominance continued even after the break before Ahmedabad event got a hold of it as they led 11-8. But, Awadhe’s unforced errors allowed the Smash Masters to level things at 11-11 and then again at 14-14 before Nandagopal’s error gave away the game very cheaply. With tie already inclined towards Awadhe, Ahmedabad’s duo had little scope for error now and they started well with four straight points. But, inconsistent shot executions by Ahmedabad meant that Awadhe could make a comeback at 4-4 before Ahmedabad went into the break 8-6. However, this is where Awadhe’s experience came into the equation as they overcame the deficit in no time to lead 10-8. Following their later comeback, Ahmedabad looked out of ideas now and it was a matter of time before Awadhe wrapped it up and they did exactly that at 15-10.

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