North Eastern Warriors outclassed Chennai Superstarz on Friday evening to reach their maiden Premier Badminton League final. Warriors registered a 3-(-1) win at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad.
Lee Cheuk Yiu and the mixed doubles pair of Lee Yong Dae-Kim Ha Na put the Guwahati-based franchise ahead in the semi-finals before Bodin Isara and Krishna Prasad Garaga beat the Chennai Trump of Sumeeth Reddy and Dhruv Kapila to wrap it up.
A confident Warriors came into the clash having beaten Chennai in their last league encounter.
They rode with the winning momentum with Lee Cheuk Yiu continuing his form his brilliant form. The Hong Kong-based shuttler has been in good form this season, having reached the semi-finals of the Indonesia Masters this year.
His performance has been one of the big reasons for Warriors’ success this season. In six league appearances, Yiu has claimed five wins.
However, he was against veteran Tommy Sugiarto, who himself had remained unbeaten for the Superstarz in four outings.
Lee started well, sprinting to an 11-7 lead, banking on his array of smashes while Sugiarto looked off-colour. But the Indonesian has a 1-0 record over his younger opponent on the BWF World Tour and a comeback was soon expected. Showing his trademark composure, the former World Championships bronze medallist levelled the game at 11-11 only to see Lee upping the ante to pocket the opener at 15-12.
In a highly competitive second game, Lee once more had the edge but a couple of mishits let Sugiarto back into the game at 12-12. It wasn’t enough to stall his momentum as he completed the 15-12, 15-12 win in 27 minutes.
With Satwiksairaj Rankireddy rested to heal his ankle, it was left to former national champion Sumeeth Reddy to shoulder Superstarz’s doubles responsibility. And he put in a herculean effort in both men’s and mixed doubles. Joining forces with Dhruv Kapila, he played the Chennai Trump against the Warriors’ Bodin Isara and Krishna Prasad Garaga.
Isara’s aggression and precision was the biggest highlight of the opening game. With the young Garaga complementing him well, the Warriors surged to 15-13 to take the first game. The second game turned out to be dramatic with Reddy and Kapila showing some exceptional resilience to save a match point and stretch the match to a decider.
That did not dim the spirit of the Thai who kept raining down smashes at the Chennai pair to race away to 5-2. It was a matter of minutes before Isara and Garaga beat the Chennai Trump 15-13, 14-15, 15-10 and book the final spot.
Earlier, in the first match of the day, Reddy and Jessica Pugh fought hard in the mixed doubles but lost to the formidable pair of of Lee Yong Dae and Kim Ha Na.
2008 Olympic mixed doubles champion Lee and former World No. 1 Kim Ha Na’s vast experience helped them pull through 15-12, 9-15, 15-14 in a highly entertaining contest.
After donning the Mumbai Rockets jersey for three consecutive seasons, Korea’s doubles superstar Lee Yong Dae’s grit and stamina shone through in a very tight match. With the Warriors up 14-13, the gallant Chennai pair saved a match point only to see Lee and Kim dash their hopes with some fabulous shotmaking.