New Delhi: Doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa guided Pune Pistons to a thrilling 3-2 victory against hosts Krrish Delhi Smashers in the opening match of the USD one million Indian Badminton League (IBL) which kicked off with a short but colourful opening ceremony at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here yesterday.
After a vibrant half-an-hour opening ceremony, India rising shuttler B Sai Praneeth and World number seven Tien Ming Nguyen from Vietnam set the ball rolling for the competition as they clashed in the men's singles match.
Gaint-killer Praneeth earned the first blood for Delhi as he notched up a stunning 21-16 21-20 victory over Tien Minh but the hosts lost the lead when Pune's Julaine Schenk of Germany notched up an easy 21-15 21-6 over Nichaon Jindapon of Thailand in the second game and brought back the Pistons at 1-1.
However, as expected world number two Malaysian combo of Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan gave Delhi Smashers the lead once again when they sent packing the Indian pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas 21-13 21-16 in the men's doubles match.
World number 36 Sourabh Verma then eked out a thrilling 21-16 19-21 11-5 victory over H S Prannoy, ranked 46, in the second men's singles to brought Pune Pistons back into the hunt, making it 2-2.
In the decider, former women doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who won India's second bronze in 2011 World Championship, then took the court but as rivals, representing their respective franchises Delhi and Pune.
It turned out to be an exciting clash but it was Ashwini and Joachim Fischer Nielsen who held their nerves to surpass Jwala and Kien Keat Koo 21-19 16-21 11-3 in a hard-fought battle for supremacy.
With the help of this victory, Pune notched up a 3-2 win over Delhi and grabbed crucial four points (3 + one bonus point) and Delhi had to settle with two points.