Bengaluru: The Bengaluru Top Guns finish their Premier Badminton League campaign with nine points at the bottom of the table and no outright wins. A spirited showing for the home crowd but with too much to do, the Top Guns were unable to qualify for the semis, losing their final tie 1-4 to the Chennai Smashers.
With the final match of the tie being selected as the 'Trump Match' by the home team, Joachim Fischer Nielsen returned to the court once more, this time with local girl Ashwini Ponnappa as his partner to face Chris Adcock and Pia Zebadiah of Chennai Smashers. All four players were on their A-game with a masterclass in smashing and returning from both sides. At the break, the Bengaluru pair led 8-6 but Chennai made a strong comeback to take it to 14 all and ultimately win the first game 15-14 The second game saw Adcock and Pia take an 8-6 lead at the break but Fischer managed to pull it back slightly to get to 12-14. Unfortunately, the comeback was too late as Adcock and Pia managed to close out the final match 15-14 15-12 and clinch their team's spot in the semis.
Having pushed World No.2 Saina Nehwal to 3 games, Suo Di has shown her capabilities of being a tough opponent against Indians. Therefore facing PV Sindhu, captain of Chennai Smashers, would be no less a task for the Chinese player. Suo Di started off well, leading 8-7 in the break with a couple of Sindhu's smashes hitting the net. But the World No.12 was too good for Suo Di and closed out the first game 15-12. Unfortunately, the second game went as expected with Sindhu smashing her way to victory, winning 15-12 15-7 over Suo Di. This gave Chennai a 3-2 lead in the tie and effectively crashing Bengaluru's hopes of making it to the semi-finals.
The Top Guns sprung a surprise in this crucial tie by pairing Hoon Thien How with Joachim Fischer Nielsen who missed the previous three ties. Their opponents were the hugely successful Chris Adcock and upcoming Indian doubles talent Pranaav Chopra. The first game was high intensity and packed with close calls with both Adcock and Fischer being very vocal about their disappointment in missed shots. Fischer especially used his height to his advantage with fans witnessing the tall frame leaping to smash the Top Guns to a 15-7 win in the first game. The Danish player easily slipped into his element in the second game with his smash technique simply perfect. Ably supported by his Malaysian partner, the two men continued their dominant display over Adcock and Chopra with a celebratory fist pump and leap in the air from Fischer signalling a 15-7 15-8 win over Chennai. This meant that Bengaluru trailed Chennai 1-2 in the tie.
The importance of this tie was apparent from the first match itself when Chennai Smashers selected the first men's singles as their 'Trump Match' with Bengaluru's Sameer Verma facing Sony Kuncoro from Chennai Smashers. The more experienced Kuncoro overpowered the young Indian and closed out the first game 15-10 with ease. But a fine display of athleticism and good returns saw Sameer come back to level the match 1 game all, winning the second game 15-10. Despite being neck to neck throughout most of the game, a couple of powerful smashes saw Sameer take the match to a deciding set. Unfortunately a couple of misjudged net shots meant that Sameer lost the chance to upset Kuncoro who ultimately won 15-10 10-15 15-8 and a bonus point to give Chennai a 2-0 lead in the tie.
The third match of the tie was between Bengaluru's captain Kidambi Srikanth and Chennai's Brice Leverdez. With the captain not performing as well as expected, it was reassuring to see his cool and composed display in the first game with the French player completely outplayed by the higher ranked Indian. Srikanth barely broke a sweat through his 15-4 win in the first game. The Frenchman managed to take the second game closer but with Srikanth's talent and amazing net play, there was no comeback on the cards for Leverdez as Srikanth closed out the match 15-4 15-12 with utmost ease. This meant that Bengaluru levelled the tie 2 all with two more matches to go.