Chennai, January 5: Michelle Li’s heroics gave North Eastern Warriors their first win after she made the last two ties inconsequential and handed the Blasters a 2-3 loss (on points) to keep the North-Eastern side’s semifinal hopes alive in the Vodafone Premier Badminton League, here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on Friday evening in Chennai.
The win takes the Green brigade to the fifth spot with 11 points, while two points from the tie catapults Blasters to top spot with 11 points.
In the last encounter of the night, the Blasters’ pair of Sikki Reddy/ Manu Attri had to toil it out till the final game against the pair of Prajakta Sawant/ Shin Baek Cheol to eke out a 15-12, 8-15, 15-9 hard-fought win and salvaged another point for the Blasters.
The super match of the day saw World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Blasters salvaging the first point for his side after an initial hiccup against 22-year-old Tzu Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei, in the second men’s singles clash.
After the Dane lost out 9-15 in the first game, he bounced back into the clash with a 15-13 win to take it to the wire. In an evenly fought encounter, Axelsen got the match point through a 330 kmph smash and clinched the game with a 15-14 charge.
In the North-Eastern Warriors’ trump clash, Michelle Li solidified her side’s qualification chances as she bounced back into the match after an initial loss to win against Kirsty Gilmour to hand Bengaluru Blasters their first loss of the tournament and sealed the deal for the Warriors with a 3-0 lead and made the next two matches of the tie inconsequential.
Blasters’ Kirsty Gilmour powered her way to a massive lead and breezed past her Canadian opponent 15-7 in the first game. However, in the second game, Li came back into her element as she displayed her finesse with a sliced drop shot to lead 8-6 at the change of ends.
The Scot fought back into the game with four straight points and led Li 12-9. Even though Gilmour looked to be in the driver’s seat, Li clawed her way back into the game and took it to the decider after winning 15-14.
In the decider, a tired Michelle Li took the game to her higher ranked opponent in the initial phases but went into the break with a slender 6-8 deficit. However, the Canadian displayed immense grit as she pulled off the unthinkable with a 15-13 win.
In the first men’s singles clash, Chong Wei Feng, who came into the match at the back of a win against World No. 15 Vincent, was entrusted with playing the Blasters’ trump match but could not continue his winning momentum as he lost out to Ajay Jayaram in straight games 15-8, 15-13.
Chong Wei couldn’t cope with Jayaram’s impressive defense and impeccable net play and committed a series of unforced errors of his forehand to give away the first game 15-8, in a fairly easy manner.
Nonetheless, in the second game, Chong Wei fought back and the game progressed neck to neck. Even though Jayaram led 8-6 at the break, the Malaysian brought it back to 13-13 but eventually lost and put the Warriors 1-0 ahead on points. Blasters who registered one point early on in the tie saw that getting nullified as they lost their trump match which saw them getting penalised with a negative point.
In the first encounter of the five-match duel, North-Eastern Warriors’ Kim Gi Jung/ Shin Baek Cheol were put on the backfoot as they lost the first game 12-15 to the Blasters’ pair of Mathias Boe/ Kim Sa Rang. However, the Warriors’ pair snapped back to level the clash with a comprehensive 15-7 victory but the Blasters’ pair displayed resiliency to win the third 15-12.
MD: Mathias Boe/ Kim Sa Rang bt Kim Gi Jung/ Shin Baek Cheol – 15-12, 7-15, 15-12
MS1: Chong Wei Feng (Trump) lost to Ajay Jayaram – 8-15, 13-15
WS: Kirsty Gilmour lost to Michelle Li (Trump) – 15-7, 14-15, 13-15
MS2: Viktor Axelsen bt Tzu Wei Wang – 9-15, 15-13, 15-14
XD: Sikki Reddy/ Manu Attri bt Prajakta Sawant/ Shin Baek Cheol – 12-15, 15-8, 15-9