Lee Chong Wei would give Mumbai edge over Delhi Smashers
Mumbai: With a fit-again world number one men`s singles player Lee Chong Wei available to play, Mumbai Masters will have the edge when they take on Krissh Delhi Smashers in their Indian Badminton League clash here on Tuesday.
Malaysian ace Lee, who missed the Masters` first two ties against Bangalore Beats and Pune Pistons, practiced last evening soon after his arrival and the World Championship runner-up`s availability has propped up the hopes of his team.
In the absence of the Olympic silver-medallist, who has been signed for USD 135,000, Mumbai fielded Russian champion Vladimir Ivanov in the singles.
The tall world no 14, a steal for Mumbai at his base price of USD 15,000, did not let his team down and won both his singles matches in impressive fashion, at Delhi and Lucknow, besides doing his bit in the doubles too.
Mumbai look very strong in men`s singles with the option to field both Lee and Ivanov.
But in that case they will have to sacrifice the Russian in the men`s doubles tie if they want to play the All England champion Tine Baun in women`s singles.
As per the format of the event, only three foreigners can be fielded in a single tie and no player can be fielded in more than two matches in the same tie.
Baun, the world number seven who has won the All England title three times including in March and was bought for USD 30,000, has surprisingly not been at her best and lost both her women`s singles matches -- to Yang Tai Tzu of Banga Beats and Juliane Schenk of Pune Pistons.
Mumbai would be hoping for a much improved display from the Danish ace.
Ivanov, on the other hand, has been the surprise package for the home team which defeated Banga Beats in its tournament opener at Delhi on August 14 before squandering a 2-0 lead to go down to Pune Pistons in the Maharashtra Derby two nights ago at Lucknow.
Ivanov has not only won both his singles matches but also piloted his younger Indian partners Pranav Chopra and Sikki Reddy to victories in men`s doubles and mixed doubles matches in the first two clashes to show his worth.
If they want to preserve the Russian for the doubles, Mumbai have the option of fielding Germany`s Marc Zweibler, the European champion, to play the second men`s singles.
Rashid Sidek-coached Delhi, on the other hand, have much weaker singles options but make it up with some very good doubles combinations.
India`s up and coming Sai Praneeth, who has victories over former world champion Taufik Hidayat to boast of this year, has been quite impressive in his singles encounters.
The 40th ranked Indian defeated higher ranked Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh of Pune Pistons and then lost in three games against S Tanongsak, of Hyderabad Hotshots, who was a semi finalist at this year`s All England championships.
The Smashers fielded Daren Liew of Malaysia after H S Prannoy lost in the Pistons` encounter against Saurabh Varma and reaped rewards as the former won his singles tie against the Hotshots.
They also have the choice of using Hong Kong`s world number 12 Wong Wing Ki, who beat Olympic and world champion Lin Dan of China in the Danish Open two years ago, in the singles.
In women`s singles, Smashers have Thai world number 15 Nichaon Jindapon or former national champion Arundhati Pantawane to look up to, but both have lost their matches so far.
Their strength, however, lies in doubles with Jwala Gutta and world`s number two men`s doubles combine of Boon Heong Tan and Kean Keet Koo of Malaysia.
Also in the ranks are V Diju and Prajakta Sawant who won the mixed doubles decider two days ago at home against the Hotshots.