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PBL 2018 | ASM and Awadhe Warriors face off in top of table clash

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PBL 2018 | ASM and Awadhe Warriors face off in top of table clash

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SportsCafe Desk


Ahmedabad Smash Masters have been in a terrific form this season so far, having won both of their opening ties to sit at the top of the points table. However, they face a star-studded Awadhe Warriors next who are still battling for the elusive crown after falling short in the last two semi-finals.

Ahmedabad’s singles players performed exceptionally well in the first tie against North Eastern Warriors in Guwahati and did an encore in New Delhi too as Hyderabad Hunters were taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the debutants. Smash Masters’ mixed doubles pair of Kamilla Juhl and Lee Reginald lost their way in the first leg but made sure that the team can trust on them by sidelining the fiery duo of Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. 

Today’s possible match-ups:

Tai Tzu Ying vs Saina Nehwal

The match of the day! After pulling out from the opening match of the league against PV Sindhu due to a niggle, Saina made a stunning comeback in the team’s second match to down Michelle Li in a three-game match. The former World No. 1 probably did not have the best of seasons, following her knee surgery in late 2016, but that does not make the World No. 10 any lesser a threat. Despite Tai Tzu Wing enjoying the form of her life, she needs to bring her best to get the better of the Indian ace. While the Taiwanese’s deceptive play has been her strength, the Indian has a good net play and the Smash Masters’ ace needs to be careful of that. The duo have been very calm during the play and don’t lose their patience easily as well. 

Sourabh Verma vs Parupalli Kashyap

The duo knows each other’s strength and weaknesses well having practised under the tutelage of Pullela Gopichand in his Hyderabad academy. The reigning Commonwealth Games champion, Kashyap, has always come across as someone who can smash any opponents on his day and Ajay Jayaram, who is playing for North Eastern Warriors this season, learnt that the hard way as the former used all his experience to exploit Jayaram's error of judgment. On the other hand, Verma struggled against Lee Hyun IL and after losing the first game, failed to come up with a fresh game plan before eventually losing the match. However, the Madhya Pradesh lad, who has got a compact defence and a stinging forehand smash, was absolutely brilliant against Pratul Joshi in the team’s first match and needs to bring his best today in order to get the better of Kashyap. 

HS Prannoy vs Kidambi Srikanth

Another treat for the fans today as the two poster boys of Indian badminton will take on each other. While Srikanth is enjoying a brilliant season, Prannoy has been on a nine-match unbeaten streak and rose above the “giant killer” tag to embrace consistency in a big way. Srikanth lost all his three group matches at the World Superseries Finals in Dubai and that would have probably made him doubly motivated to get back his lost confidence. However, despite winning the first match against Chennai Smashers, the Guntur-born lad seemed rusty in the second match and it will take a huge effort on his part to end Prannoy’s juggernaut. While attack is Srikanth’s major strength, Prannoy has got a superb backhand play and combined his great net play with deception to down Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth on Friday. The battle of wits and instincts will decide the eventual outcome of the match. 

Kidambi Nandagopal/ L.H.C Reginald vs Hendra Setiawan / Tang Chun Man

Playing his first game of the tournament, against Hyderabad Hunters, Nandagopal looked like a seasoned pro, outscoring the more prolific Lee Reginald in the first game. However, in that game, experienced duo of M.Kido and Y.Y Seong had the last laugh to hand the Smashers a defeat. However, the management should be very happy the way Nandagopal gelled in with Reginald and would hope for another good performance from the duo. But, the pair must do well to remember that they will come pitted against two absolute legends of doubles format. While 2008 Olympic gold medalist Hendra Setiawan will be leading the charge in men’s doubles, he will be partnered by seasoned Hong Kong star Tang Chun Man. The duo decimated the Hunters in their last game and will provide a huge challenge for the Smash Masters’ specialists. 

K.R. Juhl/L.C.H. Reginald vs Christinna Pedersen/Tang Chun Man

After losing their first game in the match against Hyderabad Hunters, the Smash Masters’ pair made some tactical changes to their play and ensured that they restricted the number of smash opportunities they afforded the opposition. That helped them win the next two games to seal the match, but today, they will be up against a bigger challenge in the form of Pedersen and Chun Man. The World No.15 Dane star Pedersen won silver and bronze medals at the Rio Olympics in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles respectively and reached the pinnacle of the mixed doubles world rankings in 2015. Interestingly, she will go against her former partner Juhl. With her, she won the silver medal at Rio and that's why it will be an interesting match-up of the day. Look out for this match. 

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