Hosts Mumbai Rockets took full advantage of the injury-forced absence of Saina Nehwal to inflict a 2-1 defeat on Awadhe Warriors in the opening Premier Badminton League (PBL) clash on Saturday.
Even before the disappointment of the late pull-out from the tie by Saina, which she announced by citing a foot injury sustained a few weeks ago, could sink in fully, the Warriors had lost the first three matches — including their trump match in men’s doubles — to squander any chances of a late victory charge.
Warriors won the inconsequential fourth match, when Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk defeated India’s H S Prannoy of Rockets in three games.
The Rockets gained the first two points, as against the minus point docked on their rivals, when R M V Gurusaidutt won the first singles against B Sai Praneeth in three games, followed by their straight game win in the men’s doubles by Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov over the Warriors pair of Cai Yun and Hendra Gunawan, nominated as the Lucknow franchise’s trump game.
Docked a minus point after suffering a loss in its nominated trump game, it was imperative for G Vrushali, who was fielded by the Warriors in place of Saina, to win her match against national women’s champion Ruthvika Gadde in a battle between two upcoming players from AP and keep the Lucknow team in the hunt.
But Vrushali was beaten 13-15 10-15 by Gadde that sealed the Warriors’ fate in the tie with the last two matches remaining to be played at the NSCI Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium.
Later, Warriors’ world No. 33, Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand upset the Rockets’ plan of gaining an extra point with a win in their trump game by beating India’s world No. 20, H S Prannoy 15-12 14-15 15-14, a result which made it 2-0 on points for Mumbai.
The last mixed doubles match was won by Awadhe Warriors when Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen defeated Mumbai’s Kamilla Juhl and Vladimir Ivanov 15-9 14-15 15-14 but it was too late by then.
Mumbai Rockets took a 1-0 lead when Gurusaidutt overcame a first game loss to put it across Praneeth in the battle between two trainees of the Pullela Gopichand Academy 14-15 15-10 15-8.