No Saina Nehwal, no problem for North Eastern Warriors on Day 1 of the Pune leg of PBL Season 4
The Warriors captain is still recovering from an injury, but her team won 3-0 against Delhi Dashers to stay in the hunt for a semi-final spot.
Her absence was still keenly felt, though - in the stands. Chants of “We want Saina” rang out throughout the tie, and the loudest cheer of the night came when the Indian star came on court for an interview.
By that time the Warriors were cruising. Rituparna Das, the 22-year-old who has filled in admirably for Nehwal, won again, kicking off a run of four straight wins for the Warriors in the tie, before Delhi Dashers made sure they didn't finish the day with negative points by winning the mixed doubles match at the end.
It was a relatively calm ending for Pune's first day of PBL action. The madness had come earlier, as the home side were given a raucous reception for their first game in Pune.
The drums were out in full force, fans were dancing and chanting, and all the noise created the perfect setting for Pune 7 Aces to get their first PBL win, over Mumbai Rockets.
As the fans beat their clappers and the drums continued to play, Pune raced out to a 2-0 lead, Line Kjaersfeldt beating Shreyanshi Pardeshi in the opening singles match and then Vladimir Ivanov and Chirag Shetty winning in the men's doubles.
The fans were insatiable at this point, creating a captivating atmosphere. Some were dancing to the music in between matches, others made sure the chanting never stopped. But on the court, Pune were wobbling. Laskhya Sen and Harsheel Dani both lost their singles matches, to Anders Antonsen and Sameer Verma respectively, and suddenly the tie was tense.
But Pune got over the line, with Ivanov and Kjaersfeldt winning the mixed doubles to seal a 4-3 win that sent the crowd into raptures.