Bangalore: Having staged some convincing performances in the league stage, both Awadhe Warriors and Mumbai Masters will fancy their chances and look to take one more step closer to the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) title when they lock horns in the second semifinal at Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.
Mumbai, though qualified for the semifinals as the fourth team, they have some big names in their ranks including World No. 1, Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia), Mark Zwiebler (Germany), Tine Baun (Denmark) and Vladimir Ivanov (Russia), to make them appear strong on paper.
The Warriors, on the other hand, could manage to impress only after initial hiccups. They peaked at the right time, winning their last three ties on the trot to make the last four stage as the second-placed team in the table. And come Thursday they would expect to continue their good show.
Thursday’s clash will be the second meeting between the two teams in this tournament.
The Warriors, led by red-hot P V Sindhu, defeated Masters in the league phase 3-2. But Mumbai would be keen to dump that sour defeat in the dock and take inspiration from the games, which they won in the league stages.
The Warriors had a worst beginning in the IBL, losing first two ties, but resilient Sindhu placed her team back on track with exhilarating display of badminton, which she had showcased at the World Championships.
The World Championship bronze medallist played a huge role in engineering a comeback trail by winning three ties on the trot, showing least respect to table-leaders Pune and Mumbai.
With the spirited and never-say-die attitude in the team, Warriors have enough stuff to ride into the finals.
However, to make this possibility a reality, Sindhu and her teammates will not only have to face a big-tie nervousness syndrome, but also deal with not-so-easy opponents.
Sindhu has won three consecutive games after losing her first two matches. She won a hard-fought battle against Tine Baun in qualifying rounds here, and her form will be crucial for the Warriors when she will be up against the former All England Champion on Thursday.
The doubles pairing of Mathias Boe and Markis Kido have been consistently performing well and they should rake up another win. The recent acquisition of Pia Zebadiah helped the Warriors team up Kido with his sibling in the mixed doubles and they have been performing admirably with two wins from as many games.
But men`s singles continues to be the Warriors` Achilles heel as both K Srikanth and R M V Gurusaidutt have not shown any sort of consistency even though they have displayed a lot of talent.
The performance of these two against the likes of Lee Chong Wei and Mark Zwiebler will be crucial in deciding the outcome of the game.
Lee Chong Wei, who hardly seemed to be breaking sweat in his games to chalk out impressive wins, would like to maintain his fitness and go unbeaten in the IBL.
The performance of Vladimir Ivanov and Sikki Reddy as mixed doubles pairing has been working wonders for the Masters. They have been winning consistently and the Mumbai outfit would like to stick to the same combination.
The men`s doubles combo of Manu Atri and Sumeeth Reddy have been consistently getting good starts and then throwing away matches. They will have to focus better and finish off games.
The women`s singles is an area of concern, where the Masters might stick with P C Thulasi considering the tough fight in the offing, by doing which they will be able to field both Marc Zwiebler and Ivanov as the foreign players in the line up.
The German heart-throb Zwiebler has been the go to man for the Masters in the IBL. He has been consistently producing resilient match-winning performances and the Masters will be hoping his form continues.
Mumbai Masters: Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia), Mark Zwiebler (Germany), Tine Baun (Denmark), Pranaav Jerry Chopra (India), Manu Attri (India), Siki Reddy (India), PC Thulasi (India), Vladimir Ivanov(Russia), Rasika Raje (India), Sumeeth Reddy (India), Coach: Tey Seu Bock.
Awadhe Warriors: P V Sindhu (India), Wei Feng Chong (Malaysia), Gurusaidutt (India), K Srikanth (India), Pia Zebadiah (Indonesia), G Ruthvika Shivani (India), Markis Kido (Indonesia), Mathias Boe (Denmark), K Maneesha (India), Nandagopal K (India), Coach: Hafiz Hashim.