Hyderabad, January 29: Badminton fans in the city are set for a spectacle as the first of the three double headers of the Premier Badminton League 2020 is scheduled to take place on Thursday (January 29) at the GMC Balayogi Indoor Stadium. With the table toppers Chennai Superstarz taking on the third-placed Pune 7 Aces and the Mumbai Rockets meeting the North Eastern Warriors, there will be smashes galore as the battle for the trophy intensifies in the final leg.
What makes the first clash a highly entertaining one is how robust both the teams have looked so far. With the Chennai team remaining unbeaten in three ties and Pune in two, one will taste its first defeat in the fifth edition of the world's most popular badminton league.
The biggest attraction of this tie is the possible face-off between Chennai's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Pune's Chirag Shetty, who partnered each other to a historic Thailand Open win last year. Having known each other's games inside out, it will be interesting to see how they perform on the court as adversaries.
Satwik's smashes and his dancing skills have been a major talking point of the league as the 19-year-old looks to be thoroughly enjoying his first stint with the yellow brigade. Shetty, meanwhile, has shown exceptional chemistry with world champion Hendra Setiawan and has gone a flawless 2-0 in Pune's outings so far.
"It will be interesting to face Chirag on the opposite side of the net this time. Both of us know each other's strengths and weaknesses very well and the one who holds his nerves under pressure, will win the match," said Satwik on the impending clash.
Even in singles, the Superstarz have looked solid. Former Asian Junior champion Lakshya Sen has carried on his scintillating form from last year to win three matches in a row and so has 2014 World Championships bronze medallist Tommy Sugiarto.
Pune, on the other hand, has been bolstered by the arrival of the Commonwealth Games gold medallists Chris and Gabrielle Adcock, who have shown tremendous fighting spirit to grind out wins for their team. 2019 Thailand Masters champion Loh Kean Yew has also been a valuable addition to the team as evident from his one win and a fighting loss in two outings.
"My partnership with Hendra has gone off to a great start and we would give everything to continue the winning streak. With the team looking very solid so far, we are confident of pulling off yet another win," said Shetty.
In the other tie of the day, the North Eastern Warriors will be locking horns against former runners-up Mumbai Rockets. It has been a forgettable campaign for the Kashyap-led team so far and they would desperately look to turn around their fortunes in the new leg.
The Rockets are still looking for their first win in four ties and the challenge won't be any easy with the North Eastern Warriors being their opponents. World No. 18 Lee Cheuk Yiu is the trump card for the Guwahati-based team. The 2020 Indonesia Masters semi-finalist has seamlessly carried on his sterling form from the BWF World Tour to the PBL.
"Happy to have continued my good start to the year at the PBL and contributed wins for the team. We are all focussed on getting a win against the Rockets," said Lee.
World No 10 Michelle Li is another player the North Eastern Warriors will bank on to help them in their title aspirations.
MATCH LIVE ON STAR SPORTS NETWORKS FROM 3.30 PM IST