Delhi face Hyderabad, Pune play Mumbai in Lucknow leg of IBL

Lucknow: Delhi Smashers would look to bring their campaign back on track when they take on high-flying Hyderabad Hotshots, while Pune Pistons would be aiming to maintain their winning run against Mumbai Masters in the second leg of the Indian Badminton League (IBL) here on Saturday.

Led by Doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa, Pistons had notched up a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Smashers in the opening match of the USD one million tournament.

But come tomorrow, the Delhi outfit would bank on the experience of their icon player Jwala Gutta to come good against the Hotshots, which boast of World No.4 Saina Nehwal and Taufik Hidayat in their ranks.

The second derby of the day will witness battle between Pune and Mumbai, both of whom would look to consolidate their position on the points table after registering victories in their respective opening round ties.

Mumbai had defeated Banga Beats 3-2 in their opening encounter while Pune got the better of Delhi by an identical margin during the first leg of the tournament at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi.

It is expected to be a rollicking affair when the Indian and international stars clash with each other at the BBD badminton academy here.

Jwala and Saina, two of India`s finest exponents and a force to reckon with in world badminton, will turn foes when they lead their respective teams.

Jwala is likely to pair up with either Boon Heong Tan and Kien Keat Koo of Malaysia in the mixed doubles event.

The world number two Malaysian pair, who won the World Championships bronze and silver at Hyderabad and Paris in 2009 and 2010 respectively, is the biggest strength of the Delhi Smashers.

For Hyderabad, Saina is undoubtedly the star attraction with the tag of the costliest female player at USD 120,000.

The franchise has an excellent mix of youth and experience with rising Indian shuttler Ajay Jayaram in the men`s singles event and promising Tarun Kona and Pradnya Gadre forming the core of the mixed doubles.

Malaysians V Shem Goh and Khim Wah Lim are a regular men`s doubles team and are expected to carry on the good work against Smashers. They are currently ranked world number 17 in men`s doubles.

Thailand`s Tanongsak and Indians Subhankar Dey and Kanthi Visalakshi complete the team`s line-up.

The experience of Hidayat, who retired recently, is surely a plus point for the PVP Group-owned franchise and the Indonesian is likely to open the team`s campaign in the men`s singles competition tomorrow.

One of the two between Ajay Jayaram and Tanongsak is likely to be selected for the second singles.

Hyderabad have a strong and formidable line-up are one of the pre-tournament favourites.

In the duel between Mumbai Masters and Pune Pistons, the match to be watch out for will be the women`s singles encounter between World No.2 Juliane Schenk and Tine Baun of Denmark.

With the likes of men`s world number 5 Tien Minh Nguyen and Juliane Schenk up their ranks, Pune Pistons are the powerhouse when it comes to singles event.

The mixed doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and Joachim Fisher Nielsen make for an experienced pairing.

In men`s doubles, they have Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas and World No.7 Tan Wee Kiong pairing up with youngster Arun Vishnu.

Mumbai have Lee Chong Wei, World No.1 men`s singles player, in their ranks but the Malaysian is yet to join his franchise. The icon player had postponed his travel plans and missed the team`s first match against the Banga Beats due to an inury which he sustained during the World Championships recently.

Germany`s Marc Zwiebler and current All England Open champion Baun complete an impressive line-up of singles players and are expected to give their team crucial victories in the men`s and women`s singles.

Vladimir Ivanov, ranked 14 in the doubles world rankings, is likely to play both men`s doubles (with Manu Attri) and mixed doubles (with Siki Reddy).


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