Hyderabad: An unexpected and shocking loss of Saina Nehwal, that too in a Trump Match, led to the demise of the Awadhe Warriors, who lost the second semifinal of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 0-3 to Mumbai Rockets at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Friday.
Mumbai Rockets, who finished the league phase in fourth position, will now face Delhi Acers, who defeated Chennai Smashers in Bengaluru on Friday, in the final -- to be played at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi on Sunday.
This was the Rockets' second win over the Warriors in as many ties as the latter also went down in the opening clash of the tournament in Mumbai on January 2.
In the opening mixed doubles contest, the pair of Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen did well to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead in the tie with a three-game triumph. The Warriors pair beat Vladimir Ivanov and Pedersen's regular women's doubles partner Kamilla Rytter Juhl 12-15, 15-13, 15-14.
"It was a great match for us. Unfortunately, we lost the first game which, ideally, we should have won. But it proved to be a big match as it got everyone at the edge of their seats. We are happy that we finally won it," said Pedersen.
The Rockets pulled things back when H.S. Prannoy earned a brilliant come-from-behind victory to get his team off the mark and level on points (1-1) with the Warriors. Prannoy defeated the exuberant Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 12-15, 15-7, 15-9.
Thai Issara and Russian Ivanov returned for their respective teams, this time for the men's doubles contest. However, this time Issara, partnering Chinese legend Cai Yun, ended up losing to the experienced Rockets combine of Mathias Boe and Ivanov 10-15, 15-12, 13-15.
"At one point in the third game it looked that they will run away with the match. But, between us, we knew we can bounce back and fortunately it happened," said Boe, whose win gave the Rockets a 2-1 lead in the tie.
It all boiled down to the crucial women's singles contest.
Warriors skipper Saina took to the court for the first time since the Lucknow-leg on January 6 and she clearly looked out of touch and form. The current World No.2 did not move well on court and lost the first game 8-15 to Han Li without putting up much of a fight.
The Indian ace somehow motivated herself to win the second game 15-12 and level the match. She let out a shrill "come on" on clinching the game which drew rapturous cheers from the Hyderabadi crowd.
But that was the end of the upward movement for Saina as she was just not in it in the deciding game, suffering a shocking 7-15 loss to her Chinese opponent. The loss in the Trump Match deducted one point from the Warriors and added one to the Rockets, giving the Mumbai team a convincing 3-0 victory.
Since the Warriors could not have made a comeback from here, the last men's singles match was not played, handing the tie to the Rockets.