Mumbai Rockets recovered poise after losing their trump game to edge out Hyderabad Hunters 2-1 for their second straight victory in the Premier Badminton League.
The Rockets dropped the trump game, the fourth of the rubber, to squander a 2-1 advantage into a 1-2 deficit before H S Prannoy did the star turn by clinching the deciding fifth match, the second men’s singles tie against fellow-Indian Sameer Verma 11-6 11-7.
The narrow victory pushed the Rockets to the top of the league table after their crushing 6-0 victory over defending champions Delhi Acers last night in their lung-opener at the NSCI stadium.
The Rockets won three out of five matches overall in the rubber against the Hunters. They won the opening men’s doubles tie, the women’s singles clash and the second men’s singles match while Hunters won the mixed doubles and the first men’s singles matches.
The feature match of the evening, however, was the women’s singles clash between Spaniard Marin, the reigning World and Olympic champion who is currently world no. 2 and represents Hyderabad Hunters in the League, and Korean world no. 3 Sung of home team Mumbai Rockets.
Honours were even at the end of the first two games. Hyun – who has a poor 1-6 win-loss head-to-head record against Marin, including a loss in the Rio Olympics quarter finals where the Spanish girl shrieked her way to the gold – clinched the opening game 11-7 only to see Marin bounce back by winning the second with an identical score-line.
The decider produced the best badminton from both players with no quarters given or taken.
The rallies were prolonged at times with flat strokes skimming the net and also saw drops, smashes and attacking clears aplenty to keep the crowd happy and on its feet.
The Spanish girl, playing her third match in four days, looked to hold the upper hand when she led 6-4 at the change of ends, but the Korean girl never gave up and matched her younger rival stroke for stroke.
The fierce fight continued and Sung took an important lead at 9-8 which was neutralised by the left-handed Marin who used a drop and a flick to gain the point and level the scores.
Marin, who won five Super Series titles and the World Championship in 2015, held the first match-point in the oscillating game at 10-9 with the help of consecutive bodyline smashes.
But Sung fought back after the Spaniard netted to go 11-10 up and held her first match-point with an excellent drop shot.
But with two well-directed smashes Marin, who had beaten Indian stars P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal on the first two days of the League, again went up to match point at 12-11 but she squandered that too by smashing the ‘bird’ into the net.
At 12-all it looked anybody’s game, before Marin committed two unforced errors, by hitting long and then burying a push into the net to hand over the match to the Korean and give Mumbai a handy 2-0 point lead.
“I made some silly mistakes in the end,” said Marin after the loss.
Earlier, in the men’s doubles match that commenced the proceedings, Mumbai Rockets sprang a surprise when two-time Olympic medalist Yong Dae Lee of Korea showed good understanding with Thai partner N Puangpuapech to dislodge the strong Malaysian combine of world no. 1 Boon Heong Tan and Wee Kong Tan 11-9 11-5 to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
England’s seasoned shuttler Rajiv Ouseph brought the Hunters back into the contest by outclassing Rockets’ Ajay Jayaram 11-7 11-8 in a largely one-sided match between the world no. 16 and 19.
Then came a big setback for the home team when Hyderabad Hunters clinched the mixed doubles tie, nominated as a trump match by the Mumbai Rockets.
The Hunters’ pair of India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Hoi Wah Chau fought back from a game down to turn the tables on the experienced Mumbai pair of two-time Olympic medalist Yong Dae Lee of Korea and Poland’s Nadiezda Zieba in three games, 11-13 12-10 15-14.
Lee and Zieba put up a great rally in the decider after trailing 5-9 and even held three match points before losing 14-15, the final point won by the Hunters pair when Lee buried a smash into the net.
From 2-1 up, the Rockets fell behind 1-2 after losing their designated trump game to make the final men’s singles match between Indian shuttlers Sameer Verma of Hunters and H S Prannoy as the rubber-deciding one.
And Prannoy, the higher ranked of the two, produced the goods to charge his way to a straight-game victory to bring down the curtains on the Mumbai leg of the tournament.
Results: Mumbai Rockets beat Hyderabad Hunters 2-1 (Yong Dae Lee and N Puangpuapech bt Boon Heong Tan and Wee Kiong Tan 11-9 11-5; Ji Hyun Sung beat Carolina Marin 11-7 7=11 14-12; Ajay Jayaram lost to Rajiv ouseph 7-11 8-11; Lee and N Zieba lost to Hoi Wah Chau and S Rankireddy 13-11, 10-12 14-15; H S Prannoy beat Sameer Verma 11-6 11-7).