Mumbai: 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.
(REOPENS DEL 88)
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.
Guru, ranked 47th in the world, made a grand recovery in the first game after being 8-13 down to catch up at 14-all before hitting a backhand wide to drop the game.
That rally was the turnaround in the match as Guru, from then on, had an edge over his rival, who is the world no. 34, by playing a more attacking game. He led 8-3 in the second game before placing himself one point away from leveling the game scores with a smash and then finishing it off with another down the middle smash.
Guru was up 8-6 at the changeover in the deciding game and then picked up three points in a row to take a commanding 11-6 lead with a leaping smash.
Despite a brief fight back from Praneeth, Guru had things well in control, went up to match-point with a lucky net cord and then won the first point for his side when Praneeth buried his backhand into the net.
"It was a tough match as he won the first set. But I knew I had to come back and win the game for my team. This win will help us in the next four games and I am happy that I stood up to the expectations of my team. It's a proud moment as the first game of PBL is in our kitty," said Guru after his win.
Warriors' gamble of nominating the men's doubles match against a top European pair of Mumbai as their trump game backfired and cost them a negative point too.
Rockets' duo of left-handed Mathias Boe of Denmark, ranked 4th in doubles in the world, and the tall Russian Vladimir Ivanov, ranked 11th in the world, dumped the Warriors' Asian pair of Cai Yun of China (world no 27) and Indonesia's Hendra Gunawan (ranked 35th) 15-11 15-11.
Boe's low serve was difficult to counter for the Asian duo and his interceptions at the net coupled by the powerful smashes from the back by Ivanov were telling in effect.