Delhi Acers clinch PBL title

New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) Exactly the way they played the entire six-team tournament, the Delhi Acers came up with a solid team performance to beat the Mumbai Rockets 4-3 at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here on Sunday and clinch the Premier Badminton League (PBL) title.

The Acers, who topped the league phase with 20 points, remained the only team in the entire fortnight long tourney which did not lose its Trump Match.

The Delhi-based team, who lost their opening two ties of the event, fought back strongly to win the next five ties to clinch the coveted trophy, beating the Rockets, whom they had thrashed 5-0 during the league phase.

The Acers though started on a losing note as their mixed doubles pair of Akshay Dewalkar and Gabrielle Adcock went down to Vladimir Ivanov and Kamilla Rytter Juhl 6-15, 12-15 in 24 minutes to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead.

“The first win was a very good start for the team. This was a big match and we didn’t want to give any room to the opponents. We started with aggressive strategies and pushed ourselves hard to win the match,” said Russia’s Ivanov.

However, Acers’ key player Tommy Sugiarto extended his win streak to six matches as he beat Rockets’ H.S. Prannoy 13-15, 15-9, 15-9 in 48 minutes in the first men’s singles.

“It was a tough match as it is the final. Prannoy played very well and gave me good competition. Losing the first match was a setback but I came back with better strategies. Happy to win the match, it was a big boost for my team,” said Sugiarto, whose victory helped the Acers equalise at 1-all.

The experienced Malaysian pair of Koo Keat Kien and Tan Boon Heong then gave the Acers a 2-1 lead with a close victory over Ivanov, who returned to the court with his men’s doubles partner Mathias Boe.

Though the Rockets pair saved three matchpoints, the Acers eventually clinched it 14-15, 15-10, 15-14 in 49 minutes.

“It was an unbelievable match. We held our nerves till the last moment. We stepped on to the court with confidence to win and had some game-plans for it,” said Tan.

“Though we lost the first game, the second one turned into a big motivation for us. We gave everything in the third game and eventually managed to out-fox our opponents.”

In the crucial Trump Match for the Rockets, Han Li, who defeated World No.2 Saina Nehwal in the semifinal on Friday, earned a come-from-behind 12-15, 15-8, 15-8 victory over P.C. Thulasi to put her team 3-2 ahead.

“A good win for me and the team. Thulasi is talented and she surprised me in the first game. But I came back strongly in the second with some innovative ideas to counter her, which worked perfectly well. The third game went smoothly and eventually I won with a good margin,” said the Chinese women’s singles player.

At this stage the Rockets led 3-2 and the next and final men’s singles contest between Acers’ Rajiv Ouseph and Rockets’ R.M.V. Gurusaidutt was going to decide the winner of the title clash.

Ouseph used all his experience to outwit Gurusaidutt, winning 15-11, 15-6 to hand the trophy to his team.

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