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PV Sindhu seals semi-final berth for Hyderabad Hunters as Vodafone PBL4 moves to Bengaluru for the final leg

BWF World Tour Finals champion PV Sindhu won a nerve-wracking thriller to guide the defending champions Hyderabad Hunters into the semi-finals of the Vodafone Premier Badminton League Season 4 at The Arena by SE TransStadia, here on Sunday. With a narrow 4-3 victory over the Ahmedabad Smash Masters, the Hunters have now jumped to the top of the leaderboard with 21 points.

The PV Sindhu vs Kirsty Gilmour face-off had the crowd on the edge of their seats. In one of the most exciting matches of the league, the Hunters skipper Sindhu edged Ahmedabad’s Gilmour 15-14, 12-15, 15-14 after saving a couple of match points.

The Rio Olympic silver medallist was the Trump for the day for Hyderabad but the lion-hearted Gilmour did everything right to deny her the win, except winning the vital last point.

The Scot made a fine start as the World No. 3 took time to settle into the match, racing ahead to 12-9. The resilient Sindhu did even the score at 13-13 before beating the 28th ranked shuttler at the net to grab the opener.

Gilmour managed to successfully blunt the Sindhu aggression in the next game. Coming back from 3-5 down, she led 11-9 before staving off some stiff resistance from her opponent to get the game.

Sindhu set the pace in the decider by going up 4-0 only to see a spirited Gilmour move past her to have a couple of match points in hand at 14-12.

But the Indian brought her vast experience into play to claw her way back from the brink. With a wondrous netplay and a pitch-perfect smash into the left corner of Gilmour, Sindhu saved both the match points and then used her deception at the net to win the highly-coveted golden point.

Earlier in the day, Ahmedabad Smash Masters captain Viktor Axelsen bounced back from a three-match losing run to inflict the first defeat of the season on Hyderabad’s Mark Caljouw.

The former world champion, who is still not 100% fit, was desperately looking for a win to get back on track. Axelsen mixed up his smashes with deft touches that put the Dutchman in an uncomfortable position in the first game. Despite losing an exhilarating 51-shot rally, the Dane pocketed the opener 15-11.

The match had a different complexion from the mid-point of the second game. Caljouw found his rhythm to move ahead to 8-5 as Axelsen went off the boil, conceding the game 13-15.

The order was restored in the decider. Axelsen first built an 8-3 lead before finishing it off 15-11, 13-15, 15-8.

In the mixed doubles rubber, the Hunters pair of Bodin Isara and Eom Hye Won beat the Ahmedabad duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Sikki Reddy 15-14, 15-9. Bodin and Eom simply upped the intensity from an 11-11 tie to take the opening game on a golden point.

The second game was way more hassle-free for the Hyderabad duo. From 4-4, they grabbed four consecutive points and never let the Smash Masters come back into the match.

There is a huge gulf in the world rankings between Ahmedabad’s World No. 23 Daren Liew and Hyderabad’s 146th ranked Rahul Yadav Chittaboina and it was evident as Liew got a 15-13, 15-9 Trump win for Ahmedabad. Chittaboina did show some spirited fightback to draw level at 12-12 after initially trailing 7-10, but it was not enough to make a dent in the confidence level of Liew.

The thrilling tie went down to the wire and it was left to Hyderabad’s men’s doubles duo of Isara and Kim Sa Rang to bring home the victory for their team. They obliged but not before surviving some tense moments in a riveting 15-10, 11-15, 15-14 win over the Smash Masters’ Lee Chun Hei Reginald and Rankireddy. 

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