PBL 2018: Saina Nehwal-less Awadhe Warriors shock defending champions Chennai Smashers in season opener
Awadhe Warriors won both their men's singles and mixed doubles matches to take an unassailable 3-0 lead (4-0 on points) in the five-match duel
Guwahati: Awadhe Warriors overcame the last-minute pullout of star player Saina Nehwal owing to an injury, as they stunned defending champions Chennai Smashers in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) opener.
Awadhe won both their men's singles and mixed doubles matches to take an unassailable 3-0 lead (4-0 on points) in the five-match duel at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium.
World No 3 Kidambi Srikanth defeated Frenchman Brice Leverdez 15-12, 15-14 to build upon the successes of Parupalli Kashyap and the mixed doubles pair of Christinna Pedersen and Tang Chun Man earllier.
The resilient Frenchman stretched Srikanth in both the games but the Indian closed out the second via sudden death after they were tied 14-all.
Kashyap won his singles against Daniel S Farid 15-12, 15 -8 to give them an additional advantage as Awadhe had ticked this encounter as their Trump Match. The victory gave them two points as against the usual one point for a win.
Kashyap dominated the encounter and sealed the contest in straight games.
Earlier, Christinna and Tang provided an ideal start to Awadhes campaign by shocking fancied English couple Chris and Gabrielle Adcock 10-15, 15-5, 15-12. The World No 9 Adcocks started off well by pocketing the first game but the Danish girl Christinna and Hong Kong's Tang fought back brilliantly to turn the tables on the English pair.
Their successes were roundly cheered by Saina from the bench after she was ruled out with an ankle niggle from the high-voltage meeting against Sindhu.
Awadhe coach Anup Sridhar, however, was hopeful Saina will turn out at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi for their second match against North East Warriors on 30 December.
Sridhar, who alongwith Siyadath Ullah are part of the Awadhe coaching setup, said in a statement: "Saina is recovering from a small ankle issue which she had developed few weeks back. She is recovering well and we are expecting her to be fully fit for the next match."
The Saina-Sindhu meeting cannot be ruled out completely as both teams can still face off in the semi-final or final.
Although Chennai were down 0-3, their star player Sindhu was yet to take to the court and she was to take on Sai Uttejitha Rao, in the last match of the evening.
A colourful opening ceremony earlier featuring Assamese folk dancers, local sensation and Bollywood singer Zubeen Garg and the famous Shillong Choir, provided a rousing start to the third edition of the Vodafone Premier Badminton League.
Assam chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal lit the traditional lamp and inaugurated the event.
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