Speedy Marin too hot to handle for Saina


On a day when the Hyderabad Hunters put in the most emphatic display of this season's PBL, it was their captain Carolina Marin who led from the front. The Hunters' 6-(-1) win against the Awadhe Warriors propelled them to the top of the points table from the bottom, and it was sparked by Marin's thumping 15-5, 15-7 victory against Saina Nehwal.

Marin made her first decisive contribution of the day by asking coach Fernando Rivas to make hers the Trump match for the Hunters after Lee Hyun Il was not confident of playing it.

What followed was an annihilation. With six of the top 11 women's singles players taking part in the PBL, the women's matches have mostly been of a high quality.

Coming off a year where she was someway off her best and decided to skip the World Superseries Finals because of an injury, Marin has showed no signs of rust in the tournament so far, winning all her three matches in straight games.

Just like their match last year in the PBL, Marin took control of the contest from the outset as Saina's serve was particularly loose. The Indian hit a serve long and failed to get the requisite depth on a couple of others.

The first game was over in a flash as Marin dictated the pace of play, which was too hot to handle for Saina.

Marin's speedy court coverage put Saina under a lot of pressure, resulting in her being reactive and defensive for the match. Having lost the last time these two met each other, at the Denmark Open, Marin looked to have done her homework on her opponent.

What also stood out in Marin's game was her improved deception from the back of the court. Saina particularly struggled to read her down-the-line shots as Marin often feigned going for a crosscourt smash, only to flick her wrist at the last moment and hit down the line.

It is testament to the high standards that Marin sets for herself that 2017 was easily her least successful year in the last four years despite her reaching the final at four Superseries events and winning the Japan Open.

If her performances at the PBL are any indication, Marin is well and truly back at her best with the addition of a few more strokes, and don't count against her climbing back to the top of the world rankings as well.

It was telling that for most of the match, it looked like Marin's lung busting screams were taking more out of her than anything that Saina could offer.