Lucknow: Despite a spectacular performance from Captain Kidambi Srikanth, Bengaluru Top Guns lost a riveting tie to Mumbai Rockets with the score-line reading 3-4 in favour of the Mumbai team.
Bengaluru were trailing 1-3 in the tie when Captain Kidambi Srikanth decided to make his encounter against friend and compatriot HS Prannoy the 'Trump Match' for Bengaluru. Having beaten him twice on the international circuit, Srikanth held an advantage over Prannoy and executed his plans perfectly. Charged up on the court, Srikanth kept up his form and breezed through the first game, winning 15-9. It didn't look like the Srikanth train would stop in the second game with the highest ranked Indian going full steam ahead. Prannoy had no answer for Srikanth's spectacular returns from the most impossible positions and in the end, the captain closed out his match 15-9 15-8 to level the tie 3 all with the 'Trump Match' bonus point.
With his second consecutive win in the PBL, Srikanth was as calm and composed as during his match. "I knew that I couldn't lose this match with us trailing in the tie and I'm so happy that I was able to win it for the team. I had said earlier that I would love to lead my team to victory and it happened better than I expected it. Prannoy is really strong and has pushed me to my limits before but I am glad that I was able to close out such an important match."
The Mumbai Rockets selected the second match of the tie, the men's doubles match as their 'Trump Match'. This was the second time their match was selected as the 'Trump Match' by the opposing team. Boe and Ivanov gelled well to dismantle Lim and How with a dominant 15-13 win in the first game, including a jaw dropping 50 shot rally that took a lot out of both pairs of players. Unfortunately, the second game went in favour of the Mumbai duo with the pair winning 15-11 to take a 2-1 lead in the tie, winning their Trump Match in the process. Despite a solid performance, Lim and How weren't able to shake Boe and Ivanov from their charge.
With the tie level at 3 all, the decider came down to the final match of the tie - the mixed doubles match with Ashwini Ponappa facing Vladimir Ivanov and Li Zi Die with her new partner, Robert Blair. It was a see-saw game all the way through in the first game with leads exchanging hands and close points being won by both teams. The Mumbai duo ultimately closed out the first game 15-12 with Ashwini's serve failing her a couple of times. The second game saw the Bengaluru pair hold their nerves with amazing net play and cheeky serves by Ashwini to level the match 1 all, winning the second game 15-11. The final game of the match resulted in Ivanov almost single handedly sending Ashwini and Blair all over the court with his powerful smashes. Despite their best efforts, the Bengaluru duo lost the final game 9-15 to lose the tie 3-4 in what was probably the best match of the PBL so far.
The fans had barely taken their seats for the first match of the tie before Suo Di overpowered her compatriot in a flurry of shots to take an 8-4 lead against Han Li. Impressing everyone with her powerful serves in the first tie, they were on display here as she romped her way to win the first game 15-9. The second game started in a similarly fast paced fashion - this time Han Li racing to a 4-1 lead before executing smashes that were too good for Suo Di. The Mumbai Rockets player closed out the second game 15-11, albeit closer but sending the women's singles match into a decider. Despite Han Li's best efforts, Suo Di's confidence was high and it could be seen through her shot selection. The higher ranked Chinese shone through pressure and closed out the match winning the decider 15-7 to give Bengaluru a 1-0 lead in the tie.
Suo Di was all smiles after her enthralling win over her countrywoman. "It was a great match for both of us because it entertained the crowd so much. Han Li is a really talented player and that showed on the court as well. It was a very close game and I knew I had to calm my nerves to win the deciding game and give my team the early lead."
Coach Arvind Bhat was complimentary of his players despite another loss. "We knew what to expect in the tie against Mumbai Rockets and that was seen by how close the tie went, especially in the mixed doubles match. Suo Di was brilliant and Srikanth has shown another level of his performance but we will need to work on our other categories as well."
The third match of the tie was between experienced campaigner Anand Pawar and upcoming Indian talent Gurusaidutt. Expected to be an interesting encounter, Gurusaidutt surprised everyone with his cross court technique and volleys. Pawar had no answer for the Mumbai player's shots and lost the first game 7-15 in rapid time. Pawar managed to show more fight in the second game with delicate angled strokes and taking it closer than the first game. Gurusaidutt though maintained his lead of 8-4 at the break and closed out the second game 15-13 to give Mumbai a 3-1 lead in the tie.
With the Top Guns facing Awadhe Warriors in Lucknow the next day itself, Bhat stressed on the importance of mental strength. "While we need to look at today's matches, we need to regroup quickly and prepare for our encounter against the home team tomorrow. We have the quality and the talent and while the results aren't there, we have confidence that we can do much better than how we have been doing now."