World No.2 Saina Nehwal notched up a comfortable straight-game victory in their Trump match over P C Thulashi in the women's singles event to guide Awadhe Warriors to a convincing victory over Delhi Aces in their Premier Badminton League (PBL) match in Lucknow on Monday.
Saina, B Sai Praneeth and doubles pair of Bodin Issara and Cai Yun won their respective matches to take an unassailable 4-1 lead over Delhi in their second tie, after they had gone down fighting against Mumbai Rockets 2-3 in their last outing.
Star of Awadhe Warriors' last match, S Tanongsak started the proceedings as he played the opening men's singles against Delhi Aces' Tommy Sugiarto but the Thai shuttler could not repeat a winning performance as the former World No.3 Indonesian registered a 15-13, 15-11 win to draw the first blood in the five-match tie.
"He was very good. While I won the match in two games but he gave me a tough fight. I had to keep a complete check on his shots as he mixed it very well. I am happy I won and opened the account for my team," Sugiarto said.
Saina, who had skipped the inaugural match on Saturday due to a foot injury, enthralled the audience with a dominating game to take her team to a 2-1 lead after beating P C Thulasi 15-9, 15-10 in the women's singles match, which Awadhe Warriors had selected as the 'Trump match'.
Thulasi opened up a slender 2-0 lead early on but Saina clearly wasn't exerting herself too much because of the injury. Lagging 3-5, Saina dominated a long rally and then drew level when Thulasi hit wide.
Thulasi didn't have answers to Saina low returns as the Warriors captain went into the break at 8-5 with Thulashi struggling to keep the shuttle on court.
Saina then wrapped the first game 15-9.
Cheered on by PBL Brand Ambassador and Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and his ‘Airlift’ co-star Nimrat Kaur from the stands, Saina produced some spectacular shots which Thulashi failed to negotiate. Saina lead 6-2 and then hit the net twice but she never lost the tempo and continued to lead 8-5.
Saina used power and placement to bamboozle Thulashi and lead 13-9, before wrapping the match with a return that left her rival clueless once again as the Warriors bagged two points from the match.
Commenting on the win, Saina said: "She started off well and she is good with her net play and I enjoyed playing those shots with her.
"It is great to win in front of your home crowd. It was my first match of the League and it produced a productive result as it was a Trump match for our side. We hope to win the tie from here".
Lucknow's Bodin Issara and Cai Yun then took the court against Malaysian combo of Koo Keat Kien and Tan Boon Heong in the third match of the day.
In an edge-of-the seat doubles match, the Thai-Chinese pair produced a superb game to eventually eke out a 15-12, 15-14 win. It was Cai Yun who played a steller role, grabbing the last two points with a spectacular smash and a brilliant serve which left Kien and Heong clueless.After the third game, Awahde Warriors lead 3-1.
After the victory, the pair said “The scorecard only shows that how tough this game was for us and we are pretty happy that we prevailed finally.
"They were too good and we enjoyed every long rally that we shared with them. Definitely Saina's win in the last game boosted our confidence which eventually helped us win this games".
Taking the court in the second men's singles, B Sai Praneeth then sealed the tie in Awadhe Warriors' favour after notching up a 15-12, 15-9 win over Rajiv Ouseph of England.