The Saina Nehwal versus PV Sindhu duel will be the piece-de-resistance of the $1 million Indian Badminton League final between Hyderabad Hotshots and Awadhe Warriors on Saturday night.
The two had clashed earlier in the league phase when Saina won. The World No 4 will fire on all cylinders once again to assert her superiority over the World Championship bronze-medallist. Sindhu, on the other hand, will step onto the court with added zeal to bring the high-flying Saina down to earth.
It will be experience versus youth. Who will prevail? National coach Pullela Gopichand would be following the duel closely. “It is a fascinating contest in the offing. They know each others’ game very well,” said Gopichand.
“I’m impressed the way Saina has played. She looks determined and confident, while Sindhu has bounced back after she lost her first two matches. The way she beat World No 3 Juliane Schenk and Tine Baun speaks of her growing confidence,” he concluded.
Hotshots are on a winning streak. They have won all but one match, to Krrish Delhi Smashers, and have been the team in form. It is not all about Saina but also left-hander Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, who has been impressive in his five outings. Like Saina, the World No 19 has remained unbeaten. Both have played a big role in Hotshots’ remarkable run.
Ajay Jayaram, the third singles player, too has been a key player for Hotshots. He has recorded some important victories. Jayaram played a wonderful game against Tien Minh Nguyen of Pune Pistons in the semifinal to give his team a flying start. He had earlier beaten the World No 5 in the league match here. The confident Jayaram would like to put in a similar performance in front of his home crowd.
Hotshots’ main strength is singles but the Malaysian pair of Khim Wah Lim and V Shem Goh have pulled off timely victories. They run into the formidable pair of Markis Kido (Indonesia) and Mathias Boe (Denmark), who are world class doubles players. Boe, who was overlooked in the auction initially and came in as a replacement for Maneepong Jongjit, has proved his money’s worth. He is ranked third in doubles rankings with Carsten Mogensen.
Kido has played a significant part in Warriors’ run to the final. He won both the men’s and mixed doubles in the semifinal. Teaming up with sister Pia Z Bernadet, who came in as a replacement for Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand, Kido has become an important player for Warriors.
Warriors have a young hero in K Srikanth, who has caught the eye with his amazing game. Although he lost against Vladimir Ivanov of Mumbai Masters in the semifinal, he has been one of Warriors’ frontline soldiers. RMV Gurusaidutt has not shown much consistency, but his game can trouble the best players. The final looks to be heading for a close finish and the team that holds its nerve will be richer by Rs 3.5 crore.