Vladimir Ivanov could turn the tie for Mumbai Masters

Sanjay Sharma‘Persist with your in-form players,’ is a rule most teams follow to the hilt. That is why it was surprising to see Mumbai Masters not field Vladimir Ivanov against Hyderabad Hotshots on Thursday.

The Russian has been in excellent form in the Indian Badminton League, and had he played against the Saina Nehwal-led side, he could have proved to be a handful against Tanongsak in the second singles. That could also probably have altered the course of the match that Mumbai lost.

It remains to be seen whether Mumbai will persist with Germany’s Marc Zwiebler against a rejuvenated Awadhe Warriors this evening, but they would do well to repose faith in the Russian.

Having lost their matches in Delhi and Lucknow, the Warriors recorded a comprehensive 4-1 win over the Krrish Delhi Smashers in Pune on Thursday and will now be geared up for their clash against Lee Chong Wei & Co.

Vladimir Ivanov and Pullela Gopichand
Vladimir Ivanov (centre) speaks to India’s national coach Pullela Gopichand with the help of an interpreter in Mumbai earlier this week. Pic/Shadab Khan

Assuming Mumbai Masters field their foreign stars Chong Wei, Tine Baun and Ivanov, this is how the tie is expected to unfold.

The Warriors have three options to choose from in the men singles, but neither Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng (World No 13), India’s Gurusai Dutt or K Srikant, can beat the World No 1 Lee Chong Wei who has impressed in the two singles matches he has played in the competition so far.

The Masters will enjoy a considerable edge in the second singles as well, provided they field Ivanov. Things could turn tricky if they persist with Zwiebler.
In the women’s singles, PV Sindhu is likely to come up trumps against Danish legend Tine Baun.

Lee Chong Wei and Tine Baun
Lee Chong Wei and Tine Baun will play a crucial role for Mumbai in the mixed-doubles event as well

Although the emerging Indian star lost in their lone meeting in Malaysia earlier this year, Sindhu should be able to keep the ageing star at bay in front of a vociferous crowd.

Sindhu, who lost to Nehwal and Banga Beats’ Carolina Marin earlier in the competition, turned the tables on Arundhati Pantawane a couple of days ago.

So she should be in the right frame of mind for this game. “I must perform well for the team if we are to enter the semi-finals, so I have to focus on winning my remaining games,” Sindhu said.

The Warriors are likely to win the men’s doubles too, as Markis Kido and Mathias Boe make a far more potent combination than Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy or even Pranav Chopra and Ivanov.

If Ivanov plays, the mixed doubles could well decide the fate of the tie as both teams would be locked 2-2 at this stage.

If Lee Chong Wei combines with either Tine Baun or Sikki Reddy, Mumbai would hold an edge against Markis Kido and his partner. In the final analysis, the match could go to the wire, with a lot depending on whether Mumbai play Ivanov.

The writer is a former India player.

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Awadhe Warriors vs Mumbai Masters on ESPN, 20:00 

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