IBL takes flight, Pune Pistons win first tie

New Delhi, Aug 15: The $1 million Indian Badminton League (IBL) finally took flight as the Pune Pistons got off to a flying start beating Krrish Delhi Smashers in the first tie, bagging four points including a bonus, at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here Wednesday (August 14).

The match of the day was the clash between doubles partners Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa with the tie level at two-all. Smashers' icon player Jwala and Kien Kiet Koo lost to Pistons' icon Ashwini and Joachim Fischer Nielsen 21-16, 16-21, 11-3 in mixed doubles.

Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, P. Kashyap and others take oath during the opening ceremony of the Indian Badminton League in New Delhi on Wednesday (August 14)

The hosts bagged two points for their two wins. The opening day's matches went on till 12.30 AM.

Jwala and Koo led most of the first game and almost had it in their kitty at 19-16. But Ashwini and her World No.4 mixed doubles partner won the next five points to surprise the hosts.

The host team were again leading in the second game (14-8) and extended their lead to 20-14. The visiting pair saved two gamepoints but Jwala and Koo won the game to push the match into the 11-point decider.

Some exquisite smashes by Nielsen and touch play by Ashwini at the net enabled them to racing away to matchpoint (10-3) and won the game, match and tie in no time.

Earlier, B. Sai Praneeth got the Smashers off the mark as he upset Pistons' Nguyen Tien Minh. The Indian beat the World No.7 Vietnamese 21-16, 21-20 in the first men's singles.

However, the Pistons came back into the tie with Juliane Schenk who levelled the scoreline 1-1 by drubbing Jindapon Nichaon of Thailand in straight games. The German World No.2 won the women's singles match 21-15, 21-6.

In the third match of the day, men's doubles World No.2 Boon Hoeng Tan and Koo, playing his first match of the day, gave the Smashers a 2-1 lead by beating Pistons' K.T. Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas 21-13, 21-16.

"I am happy with the way I played and quite enjoyed the crowd's support. It was a bit of upset in the beginning for our team today but possibly that just goes to show that it happens in a lot of matches when the competition is good," said Koo post his win.

However, the tie was again equalised at 2-all when Sourabh Verma, representing Pune, beat talented Smashers' youngster H.S. Prannoy 21-16, 19-21, 11-5.

"Me and Prannoy are friends and we love playing with each other. I am happy for my team and would like to thank the crowd here," said Verma.

The tie was preceded by opening of the tournament by Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Akhilesh Das Gupta which was followed by a laser show-based opening ceremony. The ceremony was graced by musical performances and gymnasts performing with zorb balls.

However, the crowd turnout was disappointing as less than 500 people turned up in the 3,000-seater stadium with tickets priced at Rs.300, Rs.600 and Rs.1,000.

Results: B. Sai Praneeth (Smashers) beat Tien Minh Nguyen (Pistons) 21-16, 21-20; Juliane Schenk (Pistons) beat Jindapon Nichaon (Smashers) 21-15, 21-6; Boon Hoeng Tan/Kien Keat Koo (Smashers) beat K.T. Rupesh Kumar/Sanave Thomas (Pistons) 21-13, 21-16; Sourabh Verma (Pistons) beat H.S. Prannoy Verma (Smashers) 21-16, 19-21, 11-5; Ashwini Ponnappa/Joachim Fischer Nielsen (Pistons) beat Jwala Gutta/Keat Kien Koo (Smashers) 21-16, 16-21, 11-3.


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