Debutants Ahmadabad Smash Masters will face their first real challenge of the campaign when they take on the seasoned Hyderabad Hunters at New Delhi’s Siri Fort Sports Complex. With both the sides winning their inaugural matches comfortably, it is expected to be grinding battle on Friday.
After hammering fellow debutants North Eastern Warriors 5-2 in the opening game, one-time PBL champion Hyderabad Hunters would be hoping to stretch their comfortable run when they face Ahmedabad Smash Masters side. Ahmedabad, however, has proved their mettle in the last game as they emerged victorious by a margin of 4-3 in the battle of the debutants in Guwahati. While they will continue to bank on India’s HS Prannoy and women’s singles World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, Hyderabad have a star-studded line of their own in the form of World No. 4 Carolina Marin and India’s mercurial B Sai Praneeth.
B Sai Praneeth vs HS Prannoy
The players haven’t faced each other on the big stage very often and Prannoy leads the head-to-head competition 2-1 against his compatriot from the last three times they have played each other. Ahmedabad had to spend big to get Prannoy’s signature in their opening season and the 25-year-old has delivered accordingly defeating World No. 11 Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei in two straight games. Praneeth, however, has started his campaign on a losing note against the same opponent and will look to right his wrongs on Friday. The World No. 16 has often found unforced errors to be his biggest flaw and Tzu Wei exploited it to inflict a defeat in their last match.
Sourabh Verma vs Lee Hyun Il
Sourabh Verma had an easy fixture against Pratul Joshi last time after Ajay Jayaram was declared injured before the match and he gave Ahmedabad their first ever point in their maiden PBL campaign winning the opening game 2-1. The 24-year-old hasn’t been very active in 2017 owing to his ankle injury after ending 2016 with a promising run that saw him reach the final of Bitburger German Open. He is likely to be pitted against South Korea’s Lee Hyun Il. The experienced Seoul shuttler is known for his intelligence in the court and variety of shot in his arsenal. He lost to Kidambi Srikanth in the Denmark Open and was forced to retire against Ng Ka Long in the Malaysia Open this year. His stamina remains a huge concern for Hyderabad but the 37-year-old showed no signs of it in his first game against Ajay Jayaram, winning it comfortably by a margin of 2-1.
Tai Tzu Ying vs Carolina Marin
Ahmedabad had made their intentions very clear when they splurged a whopping Rs. 52 lakhs to land the Taiwan star, and the World No. 1 will undoubtedly have to play a significant role if the debutants are to make a mark in their first season. The 23-year-old has secured five Superseries titles this year and continued her PBL campaign with a convincing 2-0 win against Michelle Li last game and will be up against Spain’s Carolina Marin. After resting out the Dubai World Superseries Finals, the World No. 4 and the Rio Olympic gold medalist has started PBL with a comfortable 2-0 win over Li.
Law Cheuk Him/Lee Chun Hei Reginald vs Markis Kido/ Y.Y Seong (Men’s Doubles)
Hyderabad’s men’s duo had a nervy 10-15, 15-13, 13-15 win against K.G. Jung and S.B. Cheol last match but the victory has surely boosted their confidence. 33-year-old Kido had a mixed 2017 where he managed to win 12 matches of the 21 that he played, failing to reach the final on a single occasion. However, the former Olympic champion is a PBL veteran and will know what it takes to get the job done. Seong, his partner, is equally experienced as the former No. 1 boasts of having won the Asian Championship, Asian Games, and World Championships. They should face Law Cheuk Him and Lee Chun Hei Reginald of Ahmedabad, who also had their share of exploits in the last game against the same opponents. Though the Hong Kong pair of Law Cheuk Him and Lee Chun Hei Reginald lack experience, their win in the last match will be a confidence booster.
Kamilla Rytter Juhl/ Lee Chun Hei Reginald vs Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/ P.Z.Bernadeth (Mixed Doubles)
17-year-old Rankireddy has had a brilliant 2017 as he reached two Superseries quarter-finals this year and playing against a regular like Bernadeth will definitely be a massive experience for the youngster. Though they managed to oust Cheol and Sawant quite comfortably last game, facing the likes of Rytter Jul and Reginald will be a huge challenge. Though Ahmadabad’s experience mixed duo lost their opening game against Sawant and Cheol in straight games, Rytter Juhl has been a legend of the game with medals from World Championships as well as Olympics and knows well how to bounce back.
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