Smashers knockout Top Guns, qualify for PBL semis

Bengaluru, Jan 13 (IANS) A superlative performance by the Chennai Smashers knocked the Bengaluru Top Guns out of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) with a 4-1 win in the last group phase match of the six-team tournament at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

With the win, the Smashers not just knocked out the Top Guns but also helped themselves and Mumbai Rockets stay in the top-four and qualify for the semifinals. The top two ranked teams — Delhi Acers (20 points) and Awadhe Warriors (17) had already qualified for the knockouts while the Smashers (17) finished third and the Rockets (13) fourth.

The Hyderabad Hunters were the first outfit to be played out of the PBL, finishing fifth with 11 points while the Top Guns ended sixth and last with just nine.

In the first semifinal here on Thursday, the Acers will take on the Smashers while the Warriors will face Rockets in the second last-four clash in Hyderabad on Friday.

The last league match started on a positive note for the Smashers as Sony Dwi Kuncoro won the men’s singles all important Trump Match 15-10, 10-15, 15-8, beating Sameer Verma to earn two points for the visiting team.

“This was an important match for both the teams. This was our Trump and had I lost then that would have meant one point getting deducted from our overall tally and they would still have had a chance for the semifinals. We are in the semifinals and it’s a real happy moment for everyone at the dugout,” said Kuncoro.

Hoon Thien How and Joachim Fischer Nielsen helped the hosts pull back a point by beating Pranaav Chopra and Chris Adcock 15-7, 15-8 in the men’s doubles contest. “It’s always a happy moment to win a match and we are feeling the same,” said Nielsen.

Top Guns skipper Kidambi Srikanth levelled things up when he drubbed France’s top player Brice Leverdez 15-4, 15-12 to make it 2-all in the tie. “It is great to win in front of the home crowd,” said World No.9 Srikanth.

Smashers captain P.V. Sindhu then upped the ante to defeat Suo Di 15-12, 15-7 in the women’s singles match to keep a perfect 5-0 record in the PBL. With her win, the visitors took a slight lead of 3-2.

“Suo Di is a very talented player and she has displayed her skills throughout the PBL. She gave a real challenge to me but I managed to hang on and win the match for our team,” said Sindhu.

The semifinals by now were out of the reach for the Top Guns but they wanted to have a winning end to the tournament. However, the Smashers rubbed salt on the wounds of the hosts as Ashwini Ponnappa and Joachim Fischer Nielsen lost their Trump match to the visiting pair of Pia Zebadiah and Chris Adcock 14-15, 12-15.

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