Chennai reserved their best for the last. Losing the first game in the deciding tie, Chennai’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk proved his resilience is tougher than his spelling. The surprise package defeated India’s Ajay Jayaram 9-11, 11-7 11-3 and sealed the PBL title for Chennai Smashers as the final score read 4-3 in favour of PV Sindhu’s side.
The confetti, fist pumps and hugs began incessantly at the Chennai camp. On the other side of the court stood a dejected Ajay Jayaram. It’s not the first time he has fallen short of glory.
It’s always been a case of so near and yet so far him and the current India men’s shuttlers. Although the loss would go down to be a bitter one considering he had looked more dominant going into the tie. Chennai rested regular Tommy Sugiarto, and smartly picked the southpaw deceptive artist Tanongsak. Jayram gave it away committing unforced errors consistently. The white flag was up much before the championship point was one.
“I just kept my focus and played the game. Yes the crowd was good,” he said. Asked if his teammates faced any issues with pronouncing his name, the Thai said:” Yeah, it’s long”
Chennai’s victory also marks the end of the 14-day long league which began on the first day of the year in Hyderabad. The winners took home the prize money of Rs. 3 crores while the runners up Mumbai Rockets pocketed Rs. 1.5 crores.
While Jayaram lost footing when it mattered the most, another Indian was up for the task. Mumbai’s HS Prannoy had to ensure he won his singles tie against Parupalli Kashyap to keep their hopes alive. Kashyap played his heart out but was unlucky to finish on losing side. He played some beautiful down-the-line shots and made Prannoy earn every point. Kashyap also injured his shoulder in the process. “Abhi MRI hoga,” he said.
When a question was thrown at him regarding his intensity in the game, PV Sindhu, sitting in the vicinity, jumped in to respond. “Never-say-die attitude. Never gives up,” with an efficacious smile.
Prannoy maintained his unbeaten run in the PBL beating his compatriot 11-4, 8-11, 11-8. Kashyap, 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has dived around whole of the league putting his body on line so soon after a year in which injury ate into his progress. A win for Kashyap would have rendered the final tie inconsequential.
Ajay Jayaram, 29, reached his maiden Superseries final — Korean Open — in September 2015. Playing the biggest game of his career he couldn’t hold his nerves as he lost in straight sets to Chen Long. Nerves swarmed him again as he let go the first game advantage, though to his credit he has played the whole PBL taking responsibility as first men’s singles for an all-India Mumbai team that outdid all expectations.
Tanongsak is a known dazzler on the international circuit and higher ranked and as such was the favourite to win. Which made Sindhus win against Sung Ji Hyun crucial for Chennai as she stepped up to the challenge.
Parupalli Kashyap has had a tough 2016 which was plagued with injuries. He too like Prannoy and Ajay does not have a Superseries title in his trophy cabinet. “Last year is gone. I’m feeling better now” he had said. Then the right smashing shoulder took a pounding.
Sindhu trumps yet again
With every game, Sindhu is proving a point—she is getting consistent in the top echelons of world badminton. Just a day after winning her much hyped game against compatriot and world no 10 Saina Nehwal, the world no 6 dispatched higher ranked Sung Ji Hyun.
Heading into the PBL finals, South Korea’s world no 3 Sung Ji Hyun was the player to beat. She halted world number Carolina Marin in early stages of the tournament then it was almost a déjà vu moment when she managed to defeat the world no 2 again in a crucial semifinal tie. The 25-year-old has also beaten Saina on the way to finals, but against Sindhu the narrative changed completely. They have twice met at the league, and on both occasions the Hyderabadi girl got the better of the Korean. Sindhu has had an ideal start to the year.
“I am very happy. It is the start of the year and these victories give you a lot of confidence. We (Sung) will see each other in the coming tournaments but such wins obviously add a lot to your confidence.