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Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

August 14, 2013 08:46 IST

Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

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The Jwala Gutta-led Krrish Delhi Smashers will lock horns with Ashwini Ponnappa's Pune Pistons in the tournament opener of the inaugural Indian Badminton League, which kicks off in Delhi on Tuesday.

With Indian and international stars clashing with each other, high-octane badminton is in store over the next 18 days.

The opening ceremony, which will have regular song and dance shows, commences at 1830 IST. The high-profile clash between Delhi and Pune begins at 2000 hours.

The US $1 million tournament, which was affected by two postponements and a myriad of controversies, will begin at the Siri Fort sports complex, where star shuttler Saina Nehwal clinched the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2010.

Ninety matches will be played as the IBL bandwagon crosses six cities, with each franchise hosting a two-day leg.

The top four teams will clash in the semi-finals and the winners will meet in the final in Mumbai on August 31.


Image: Left to Right: Jwala Gutta (Delhi Smashers), Saina Nehwal (Hyderabad Hotshots), Marc Zwiebler (Mumbai Masters), Carston Margensen (Banga Beats), Ashwini Ponappaa (Pune Pistons) and Mathias Boe (Awadhe Warriors) during the trophy unveiling ceremony of Indian Badminton League 2013.


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Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

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Jwala and Ashwini, who won India's first women's doubles bronze at the World Championships in 2011, will turn foes on Wednesday when they lead their respective teams.

Hosts Delhi boast of Jwala as their icon player and the star doubles exponent is likely to pair with one between the Malaysian world No 2 two pair of Boon Heong Tan and Kien Keat Koo.

The Malaysian pair, which won the World Championships bronze and silver at Hyderabad and Paris in 2009 and 2010 respectively, is Delhi Smashers’ biggest strength.

The format for the matches is men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, men's singles and mixed doubles, which means the onus will be on Jwala to take her team home in case her colleagues fail.


Image: Jwala Gutta (right) with Ashwini Ponnappa
Photographs: Michael Regan/Getty Images

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Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

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In the men's singles, world number 16 Darren Liew is likely to clash with seventh ranked Vietnamese Tien Minh Nguyen, who won the bronze at the World Championships in China last week, while Sai Praneeth may be pitted against fellow-Indian Saurabh Verma in the second men's singles.

In the women's singles, it will be world No 2 German Juliane Schenk, who should give Pune Pistons the edge over 15th ranked Nichaon Jindapon of Thailand.

Nikhil Kanetkar, former Olympian and India No 1, who is coaching the Pistons, exuded confidence ahead of their opening clash.

"We are looking at one of the two men's singles, women's singles and mixed doubles to score, anything else we win will be a bonus," he said.


Image: Juliane Schenk
Photographs: Syamsul Bahri Muhammad/Getty Images

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Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

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For Pune, however, it will be an uphill task for the pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas to upset the world No 2 Malaysians, while the mixed doubles event is likely to be exciting considering Ashwini might pair up with experienced Joachim Fischer, who won the bronze at London Games.

"Fisher is a remarkable mixed doubles player. He is plenty of experience and has a different technique. He covers most of the corners of the court. I will get to learn a lot from him and I am very excited," Ashwini said.

Nikhil said, "With Fisher's experience, I think he can combine well with Ashwini. He is an Olympic bronze medallist and I think it will be interesting to watch."


Image: Sanave Thomas (right) and Rupesh Kumar
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Form favours Delhi in IBL opener against Pune

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Jwala, on the other hand, said she will not underestimate her team especially in the new scoring system.

"I feel we have a lot of potential. Doubles is our strength. Darren Liew is a good player and I would not underestimate him. Even Sai Praneeth is a team player," she said.

"In the women's singles also Jindapon Nichaon is a good; she had given Saina Nehwal good competition at the Thailand Open last year. The format is different and anybody can win in this format and we have a good team," she added.


Image: Jwala Gutta
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters

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