Hotshots meet Pistols today

Hotshots meet Pistols today

Following back-to-back victories in their first two ties, high-flying Pune Pistons would be aiming to provide stiff competition to the Saina...

Mumbai (PTI): Following back-to-back victories in their first two ties, high-flying Pune Pistons would be aiming to provide stiff competition to the Saina Nehwal-spearheaded Hyderabad Hotshots in their Indian Badminton League (IBL) contest on Monday.

Pistons' come-from-behind victory over Mumbai Masters in their Maharashtra state Derby clash at Lucknowon Saturday night should be a great morale-booster for the league toppers ahead of their face-off against Saina's Hotshots at the National Sports Club of India stadium courts in Worli.

Julinane Schenk, the German powerhouse who, at number four, is one rung below Saina in the world badminton women's singles rankings, looms as a major threat to the Hotshots who had beaten Awadhe Warriors 3-2 in their opening clash at Delhi on August 15.

The German player has won both her singles ties quite easily thus far while Saina too, after her disappointments in the World Championships in China held prior to the start of the million-dollar IBL, has shown she is the woman to beat in home environs.

The expected match-up between these two top women's players in the world would be the highlight of the tie and should thrill the capacity crowd in the newly-built arena.

Hotshots would be eager to put behind their 2-3 reversal at the hands of Delhi Smashers last night in Lucknow after they squandered a commanding 2-0 advantage. Saina's continued good form after the World Championship flop-show would be crucial for the Hotshots who have been well-served by their left-handed men's singles player S Tanongsak of Thailand, the world no.19 and semi-finalist at the last All England Championships.

The Thai has been preferred as their first singles player to the retired (from international events) former World and Olympic Champion Taufik Hidayat by the Hotshots and he has delivered the goods though he had to put his best foot forward against India's Sai Praneeth, representing Krrish Delhi Smashers on Saturday.

But the doubles combination of the Hotshots have not been consistent, with their ploy of partnering India's T Kona with V Shem Goh by breaking the latter's better understanding with his regular partner Kim Wah Lim, not yielding the required result
"It was a disappointing day for the team. Our strategy in the doubles went wrong as we tried to get a new team to play," Saina rued after their loss last night. And Indonesian ace Hidayat, fielded in the second men's singles, lost to his Smashers' rival Daren Liew which upset the Hyderabad franchise's plans further.

Hotshots would certainly be hoping that the Indonesian great rediscovers his touch against the Pistons to push forward their bid of reaching the last four in the six-team tournament. Pistons, on the other hand, have to thank, Schenk in women's singles and their mixed doubles pairing of icon player Ashwini Ponnappa with Joachim Nielsen Fischer for their successive victories. The victory for top Vietnamese men's singles player Nguyen Tien Minh over Marc Zweibler of Masters was also crucial after he had suffered a shock defeat against Smashers' Sai Praneeth in their league opener.

"It's a happy feeling to sit on the top on the points tally table. In the mixed doubles initially we both were not very strong but then we fought hard and won. Pune Pistons hopes to continue this winning streak in the League," said Ashwini after she and her partner defeated Pranav Chopra and Sikki Reddy in the tie-decider last night.

While Schenk was expected to provide the boost through her women's singles ties, Minh also rose to the occasion by winning on Saturday, while Ashwini and Fischer have combined well to keep the Pistons' flag flying high. Pistons, however, would be expecting a better show from their second men's singles player and the seasoned men's doubles pairing of Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar.

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