Mumbai, December 24: Playing their first match of the Vodafone Premier Badminton League Season 4, the Son Wan Ho-led Awadhe Warriors had a perfect start to their campaign as they defeated Pune 7 Aces in a dramatic encounter at the NSCI Dome on Monday.
Awadhe Warriors' icon player and World No 5, Son Wan Ho set the tone for the match with a win in their trump match over Brice Leverdez. The Frenchman, who had beaten the likes of former world number one, Lee Chong Wei on the BWF Tour, looked primed for an upset when he came back from 8-11 deficit to close in on at 12-14 in the first game.
But the South Korean Son dominated the net on the next three points to pocket the first game. From there he never looked back and raced to complete a 15-14, 15-7 win. Pune's hopes of starting the second tie of the tournament with a win did not fructify as the Warriors took an early 2-0 lead.
Pune 7 Aces, who next pitted Vladimir Ivanov with skipper Mathias Boe for men's doubles, would have hoped that the experienced duo could find a way out to that elusive point to help them rolling in the competition.
But Lee Yang and Mathias Christiansen cruised in the opening game but Ivanov and Boe fought back from a 6-12 deficit to take the game till the final point but ended up losing the match 15-12, 15-14.
The result meant that Awadhe Warriors have a 3-0 lead in the tie and Pune 7 Aces icon player Carolina Marin needed to win her trump against Beiwen Zhang to keep the team alive in this tie and the Spaniard did that in style.
The World champion provided Pune with the much-needed winning spark as she outclassed 2018 India Open champion Beiwen Zhang to help the Aces earn their first points.
Marin, who had lost her first match of the new season to Hyderabad Hunters' PV Sindhu in the tournament opener, was under a lot of pressure after her team lost the first two matches of the second tie, having lost all the five matches on Saturday.
Zhang was clearly high on confidence with her team already 3-0 ahead and that showed in her aggressive play in the opening game as helped herself to a 9-7 lead before Marin reeled of a series of four points to get a two-point advantage.
Marin then showed the trademark big match temperament to see off a spirited fight from Zhang, who closed in on at 14-13, by raising the tempo during a rally to pocket the game.
The Spaniard seemed to be in a hurry to finish the match and simply raised the pace of the rallies and raced to a 8-1 lead before cruising to 15-13, 15-9 and claim two points of the trump match. Thus she narrowed the gap on Awadhe Warriors 3-2.
Young Lakshya Sen then kept on the momentum going, edging past Dong Keun Lee in straight games at 15-11;15-8 to pull the match back on level terms at 3-3.
It all went down to the decider as Christiansen Mathias/Ashwini Ponnappa took the court against Vladimir Ivanov/Line Kjaersfeldt. It was an enticing game and a test of nerves for the players with both teams winning a game each but in the end it was the Warriors who struck the final ace to take home the match, winning the tie 4-3.
With the Mumbai leg getting over, the Hyderabad Hunters will take on Chennai Smashers as the second leg of Vodafone PBL4 starts from Tuesday in Hyderabad.
Awadhe Warriors vs Pune 7 Aces
(MS): Wan Ho Son bt Brice Leverdez-15-14;15-7
(MD): Yang Lee/Christiansen Mathias bt Mathias Boe/Vladimir Ivanov-15-12;15-14
(WS): Beiwen Zhang lost to Carolina Marin-13-15;9-15
(MS): Dong Keun Lee lost to Lakshya Sen 11-15, 8-15
(XD): Christiansen Mathias/Ashwini Ponnappa vs Vladimir Ivanov/Line Kjaersfeldt