PBL 2018-19: Indonesia’s Ahsan and Setiawan guide Bengaluru Raptors to their first title

Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan

Former world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan played a crucial role in bringing home the Premier Badminton League Season 4 (PBL 2018-19) title to the Bengaluru Raptors in front of a packed Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, India on Sunday night.

With a close 4-3 win over the Mumbai Rockets, the Bengaluru franchise won the title for the very first time a year after being pipped to the post by the Hyderabad Hunters.

As for Mumbai, this was their third loss in a final. They had finished as the runners-up in the first and second seasons as well.

Bengaluru had blanked Mumbai 5-0 when they last faced off on Tuesday in a league match. This time even though the final outcome was in favour of the Raptors once again, the Rockets were in contention until the final rubber.

It was all up to the World No. 9 pair of Ahsan and Setiawan to deliver the PBL 2018-19 title to Bengaluru when the riveting tie went down to the wire.

Ahsan and Setiawan totally lived up to the expectations and had a commanding 15-13, 15-10 win over Mumbai’s legendary Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung.

The Indonesians, ranked No. 1 in the world in 2013, had been the rock for Bengaluru in their PBL 2018-19 campaign. Having come to India right after playing at the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, they carried on their good form.

With four wins in six matches in the league stage, the Singapore Open champions refused to falter in the knock-out stages and got a couple of vital wins for Bengaluru to put them on the path to their maiden title.

The other victories for Bengaluru on Sunday came through their skipper Kidambi Srikanth and their women’s singles specialist Vu Thi Trang.

The former World No. 1 Srikanth made short work of the 18th ranked Anders Antonsen 15-7, 15-10 in a brutal display of aggression and precision.

World No. 59 Vu was made the Bengaluru Trump for the night. Except for a brief fightback by the World No. 202 Shreyanshi Pardeshi in the initial stages of the second game, the Vietnamese was in control of her match and won it 15-8, 15-9.

Mumbai came through in the other two matches of the day. World No. 12 Sameer Verma bounced back from a slow start to defeat Sai Praneeth 7-15, 15-12, 15-3.

The Mumbai Trump pair of Pia Zebadiah and Kim Gi Jung got the win in mixed doubles. The Indonesian-Korean combine saved a game point to beat Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith 15-8, 15-14.