Ji Hyun Sung’s name was on everyone’s lips at the UP Badminton Academy last year when she won the women’s singles crown at the prestigious Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Tournament here. That was her maiden appearance in any event in the state capital.
But within 10 months, things changed and the World No 3 Korean went down fighting to London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal in a Premier Badminton League match at the same venue here on Friday night.
The loss, however, didn’t make any difference as Mumbai Rockets outplayed local outfit Awadhe Warriors 4-3. The win also helped them complete a hat-trick of wins in as many encounters this season.
After losing the first game to World No 10 Saina 10-12, Sung bounced back superbly to leave the Indian gasping, winning the second game 11-4. But Saina, egged on by a near-capacity crowd, came back strongly to win the decider 11-5. This was Saina’s second win in as many matches here this season.
The win helped the local outfit stage a comeback as they had lost both their men’s doubles and singles matches. Lee Yong Dae and Nipitphon Puangpuapech put the Rockets in the lead with an 11-7, 3-11, 13-11 win against the in-form pair of Markis Kido and V Shem Goh.
Ajay Jayaram extended the lead to 2-0 as he defeated compatriot Kidambi Srikanth 5-11, 15-14, 11-5. This was Srikanth’s first loss in the league.
Jayaram lost the first game 5-11 and was down 1-5 in the second. But he never lost hope and kept up the pressure. From 7-all, the see-saw battle continued and it continued till 14-all before Jayaram sent down a powerful smash down the line to restore parity by winning the game 15-14. In the decider, Jayaram remained unstoppable and won 11-5.
“It was really fantastic as I could help my team get the early lead. The momentum was against me and I am glad that I hung on and won the match,” Jayaram said.
HS Prannoy then gave Mumbai Rockets an unassailable 4-1 lead, winning his trump match against Wing Ki Vincent Wong 14-12, 9-11, 11-8.