PBL: Awadhe Warriors jump to second spot with win over Ahmedabad

Son Wan Ho
Awadhe Warriors's Son Wan Ho in action.
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Ahmedabad: World no. 5 Son Wan Ho beat former world champion Viktor Axelsen as Awadhe Warriors thumped Ahmedabad Smash Masters at the Vodafone Premier Badminton League Season 4 here on Friday.

World no. 10 Beiwen Zhang too won her trump match to pave the way for Awadhe's third win in four ties this season. This was the Smash Masters' second defeat on the trot after having topped the leaderboard in the initial stages of Season 4.

Birthday boy Axelsen had an uphill task against the in-form Son Wan Ho of the Warriors, considering the fact that he has still not recovered fully from the ankle injury that hampered his season last year. He looked subdued as the Korean dictated the terms, involving the Dane in long rallies.

From 10-3, the steady Son Wan Ho piled on the pressure on his rival, who conceded the opener 7-15.

Axelsen looked much more settled in the second game and built a 6-1 lead. Son did come back to within three points of the Dane but his unforced errors allowed Axelsen to grab the game 15-8.

In the decider, a resilient Axelsen erased a 3-7 deficit to even the score at 7-7. The persistent effort was still not enough as his unpreparedness at the net was exposed repeatedly by the Korean, who finished the 15-7, 8-15, 15-10 win to bring about Axelsen's third defeat of the season.

Earlier in the day, Awadhe's Beiwen Zhang wanted to make a statement, having beaten the BWF World Tour Finals champion PV Sindhu this season. And the World no. 10 did exactly that in her trump clash with Ahmedabad's Kirsty Gilmour, even though it wasn't easy for her.

The two are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head record on the international circuit and the match went the same way, with not much to separate the two. Gilmour's excellent defensive skills were on display as she managed to edge her opponent to go up 8-5 and then continued the tempo to pocket the game 15-10.

Gilmour made it very close in the second game and trailed Zhang by just a solitary point at 11-12. But her hopes of wrapping it up were dashed by a highly motivated Zhang who took the next three points as well to set up the decider.

Zhang overturned a 0-3 deficit to add five consecutive points to her kitty and never let go of the lead after that. A calm and poised Zhang then kept going to grab the 10-15, 15-11, 15-11 win.

The men's doubles was yet another highly entertaining affair where Awadhe's Lee Yang and Mathias Christiansen teamed up against Ahmedabad's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Nandagopal Kidambi.

Determined to get the Smash Masters back on track after the loss in the first rubber, Satwiksairaj and Nandagopal kept it competitive till 12-12. However, Christiansen's precision in the last few points helped swing the game their way with a 15-12 win.

The Ahmedabad duo rebounded strongly in the second game. With the young Rankireddy upping the intensity of his smashes, the Warriors had to bow down 10-15 in the second game.

But Christiansen once more made the difference in the decider. His perfect shuttle placement suffocated Rankireddy who couldn't find his attacking shots. Racing ahead to 8-3, the Awadhe team wrapped it up 15-12, 10-15, 15-8.

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