Zee Media Bureau/Suyash Srivastava
Hyderabad: Inspired by the fighting spirit of their icon player Saina Nehwal, Hyderabad Hotshots thrashed Pune Pistons 3-0 in the first semi-final tie played at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.
Such was Hyderabad’s dominance, than Ashwini Ponnappa, the icon player of Pune Pistons didn’t even get the chance to appear in her mixed doubles match as Hyderabad won the first three matches on the trot.
In the men’s singles match, Hyderabad Hotshots’ Ajay Jayaram got his side to a terrific start as he defeated Pune Pistons’ Tien Minh Nguyen in comprehensive style. Jayaram, who has been phenomenal right through the tournament, once again played some superb badminton and outshined his opponent in straight sets - 21-17, 21-11.
The first match was followed by the most anticipated match, the women’s singles encounter between Saina Nehwal and Pune Pistons’ Juliane Schenk. Even though Saina had defeated Juliane in their previous meeting in the tournament, Saina played her heart out in a tense match which she finally won 21-10, 19-21, 11-8.
Massive crowd had turned up to watch her local star play on her home ground as Saina began the match high on confidence and won the first game 21-10.
In the second game too, the star Indian player was leading 18-14 at one stage after which Juliane made a spectacular comeback and bounced back to win the game 21-19. Juliane won seven of the last eight points in the second game and proved her worth as a world class player.
Both the players showed great aggression in the decider and displayed superb show of stamina and strength. Saina, who won several points off her cross court forehand smash, edged past her opponent 11-8 in the third and the final game.
In the men’s doubles match, Pune Pistons’ pair of Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Sanave Thomas gave their franchise something to cheer about in the must-win match as they won the first game against Shem Goh and Wah Lim of Hyderabad Hotshots 21-16.
But, they couldn’t sustain the momentum as Fischer and Sanave came back to win the next two games and the tie for their side.
It was a painful sight for Ashwini Ponnappa who sat in the dugout as her players left the court one after the other after being defeated by Hyderabad’s determined shuttlers.
Earlier, Hyderabad made an interesting move to play Saina Nehwal in the mixed doubles match as well. But the situation didn’t arise as the local franchise won three straight matches and advanced into the final in emphatic style.
Hyderabad Hotshots will now play the final with either Mumbai Masters or Awadhe Warriors at the Sardar Patel stadium in Mumbai on August 31.