Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Lakshya Sen combined to guide Chennai Superstarz to a win over Hyderabad Hunters as the fifth edition of the Premier Badminton League got off to a thunderous start at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here today. Appearing in Chennai’s yellow colours for the very first time, the 19-year-old impressed the crowd with his aggressive brand of badminton in partnership with Jessica Pugh against Hyderabad’s pair of Sikki Reddy and Vladimir Ivanov.
The World No. 11 was at the top of his game against his previous team as the home pair cruised to a 15-6 lead. Sikki and Ivanov, both being PBL veterans, knew the right moment to lift their games and levelled the encounter at one game apiece in this thrilling opener. While they had control in the initial stages of the decider and led 8-4, it all needed a spark from Thailand Open champion Rankireddy to get themselves back into contention at 12-12. The Hunters duo was able to save one match point before Rankireddy and Pugh wrapped it up 15-6, 13-15, 15-13 in front of a roaring home crowd that witnessed a celebratory dance from Rankireddy.
With a polished performance, former World Championships bronze medallist Tommy Sugiarto put Chennai Superstarz in command when he took the court against Hyderabad’s Sourabh Verma. Sugiarto has won their last two matches on the BWF circuit and it was no different in PBL. Verma staged a brief comeback to equal the scores at 5-5 in the second game but his fire was soon doused by the spirited Indonesian who won the match 15-11, 15-10.
Hyderabad’s Priyanshu Rajawat made a debut to remember against Chennai’s Lakshya Sen even though in a losing cause in a 58-minute thriller. Rajawat’s brilliant anticipation skills and his backhand returns put the World No. 30 in a spot of bother as he stormed back to take the second game after losing the first. In a breathtaking final game that had the entire stadium on the edge, Sen won a dramatic deciding point after the two were locked at 14-14 to gift the 15-6, 13-15, 15-14 win to the hosts.
World Champion PV Sindhu showed no mercy as she took on debutant Gayatri Gopichand. The World No. 6 did not take a lot of time to down the up and coming youngster 2-0 in the second trump match to give her team the first points of the tie.