Hyderabad Hotshots stormed into the final of the inaugural Indian Badminton League after a convincing 3-0 victory over Pune Pistons in the first semi-final in Hyderabad, on Wednesday.
Ajay Jayaram had given the home side a 1-0 lead at the Gachibowli Stadium after he pulled off a surprising victory over top-ranked Tien Minh Nyugen 21-17, 21-11 in the first match.
Star shuttler Saina Nehwal survived some anxious moments before prevailing over Juliane Schenk in a tight contest to double their lead.
V Shem Goh and Wah Lim Khim then edged past Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Sanave Thomas 16-21, 21-14, 11-7 in the men's doubles to give Hyderabad an easy 3-0 victory.
The first game between Jayaram (ranked 25) and Vietnam's Tien Minh Nyugen (world number five) promised to be a competitive affair from the start as the Indian put up a fight
against his more fancied rival.
Jayaram led 7-6 at the time of first break and the young Hyderabad player maintained a consistent lead with brilliant smashes and cross-court shots. He won the first game with an impressive margin of 21-17.
The second game proved to be equally good for Jayaram as he continued to dominate. Jayaram, who had a 7-1 lead at the time of first break, established an unassailable lead of 18-8.
Though ranked lower, Jayaram showed that he was equal to the task and won the second game 21-11 as the capacity crowd cheered for him.
"It was not a miracle overnight. I was suffering from an injury yesterday and I rested the entire day which really worked well and I won the match. I also changed my strategy a
little bit to play against Tien Minh Nyugen," said Jayaram after the match.
Hyderabad icon player Saina won a tense decider after she could not finish off the match in the second game to clinch a thrilling 21-10, 19-21, 11-8 victory.
The match between Saina and Schenk, currently world number four and three respectively, proved to be an exciting battle marked by long rallies, powerful smashes and drop shots as both tried to outsmart each other.
The first game went in favour of Saina as she managed to expand her initial lead of 7-3 against Schenk at the time of first break to a massive 14-4 at the time of second interval.
Saina gained momentum as the game progressed and some unforced errors proved to be the undoing for her German opponent Schenk who conceded the first game 10-21.
Schenk, however, put up a tough fight in the second game which witnessed long rallies between the two as they did not let any opportunity to score a point go by.
Saina had an edge of 7-6 by the first break and she succeeded in taking it to 14-8 by the second interval. Schenk, however, staged a remarkable comeback and levelled the score at 18-18, before taking the game at 21-19.
The decider was a keenly-fought battle between the two celebrated players and the spectators were on the edge of their seats. Cheered by the home spectators who enjoyed every bit of the rallies and powerful smashes, Saina finished the duel at 11-8.
"I lost my focus in the second game and was unable to retrieve few shots. Schenk also changed her shots little bit which became quite dangerous. But I just thought about winning for a few seconds and got myself back in action to win the match," Saina said after the match.
Photograph: Indian Badminton League