PBL analysis | Ahmedabad Smash Masters’ singles stars demolish Warriors in Guwahati

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PBL analysis | Ahmedabad Smash Masters’ singles stars demolish Warriors in Guwahati

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Bastab K Parida


Tai Tzu Ying won the trump match for the Ahmedabad Smash Masters and HS Prannoy and Saurabh Verma secured victories in the men’s singles matches to secure a 4-3 victory over the North Eastern Warriors. The Warriors brilliance in doubles wasn't enough to turn the tables on the Smash Masters.

Sourabh Verma vs Pratul Joshi

North Eastern Warriors decided to give 2016 Bahrain International winner Pratul Joshi a chance after Ajay Jayaram was declared injured before the game and the youngster vindicated the decision through his attacking instincts. But only attack can’t take you places in badminton and one needs to have a strong defence in the arsenal to frustrate the opposition player. And Joshi’s lack of defensive skill set and the inability to return the attacking clears cost him points time and again. Sourabh, on the other hand, managed to steer clear of that and mixed caution with aggression while playing the southpaw. When Sourabh played wide-down-the-line drives in the second half of the first game and the entire second game, Joshi seemed exhausted and his lack of court coverage told as the Ahmedabad singles star won points for fun. The Uttarakhand youngster also fell near the court while playing hairpin shots and that didn’t help the team’s cause at all. Sourabh pounced on that to make that count while giving the Smash Masters a 1-0 lead in the tie. 

Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Stefani Stoeva vs Shin Baek Cheol/Prajakta Sawant

Shin Baek Cheol started things off for the North Eastern Warriors with three consecutive smashes and that became the pattern of play for him for almost the entire passage of this mixed doubles match. Partnering Prajakta Sawant, who is currently ranked 43rd in mixed doubles, the Korean player dominated the experienced Ahmedabad duo through their attacking gameplay. Although Juhl and Stoeva defended smashes well, they complicated things by their lack of communication. On the other hand, despite playing together for the first time, Cheol and Sawant's communication was evident as the latter mostly managed the forecourt and played push shots to perfection while the former managed to hit the unbelievable speedy smashes from the baseline without any effort. They also didn’t concede a lot of unforced errors and that helped the Warriors to secure their first point in the tie. 

Tai Tzu Ying vs Michelle Li

Probably, the best thing that the Smash Masters did on the auction table was to snap the services of Tai Tzu Ying. And that was well on display when the Chinese Taipei player literally smashed the Canadian pro to win the match by straight games. While Tai created unusual angles, Michelle Li failed to receive the same and needed to be incredibly agile, but alas, such was the dominance of the Taiwanese that Li remained stranded on the court for most of the time.  If she could beat Tai with her pace, then the result would have been different. Again, Tai’s deceptive gameplay has been one of her strengths and it seemed, Li simply wasn't prepared for that as the former used deception to great effect to wreak carnage. In the second game, Michelle had the upper hand until the mid-game break but failed to latch onto that chance as the World No.1 player won the last five points to give her team two important points.

HS Prannoy vs Wang Tzu Wei

The Smash Masters think-tank broke the bank to get Prannoy on board, spending a whopping amount of Rs. 62 lakhs which made him PBL 3’s costliest buy. And rightly so, when Prannoy gets going, he doesn’t care about the form and can blow any reputation to smithereens. He might lack a Superseries title to his name, but his attacking game helped him remain unbeaten in the last edition of the PBL and it was only a matter of time before the Kerala lad silenced the vociferous Guwahati crowd. Despite the World No.11 showing early signs of good performance, Prannoy brought his killer instincts to the fore and retrieved the brilliant smashes attempted by North Eastern singles’ star. In the first game, while the Taiwan player played the drop shots and smashes to perfection, he failed to return well time and again and that allowed the Indian ace to secure the first game. Prannoy was also brilliant with his backhand and hit winners with effortless ease. While Prannoy seemed to be struggling when the Taiwanese player found himself with five game points in the second game, the Indian saved four of them and sealed out the match with a 300+ kmph smash to win the match for his side.

Law Cheuk Him/Lee Chun Hei Reginald vs Kim Gi Jung/Shin Baek Cheol

When the Korean duo were up against the pair from Hong Kong, the game was sure to be a battle between two attacking teams, but as it turned out, the better defenders emerged victorious. The Korean pair were sublime with their on-court display, and while the Ahmedabad duo only brought the attacking game to the fore, their opponents had a perfect blend of attack and defense that worked well, but it was too little too late in the day for the Warriors.

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