Sports Guwahati Saina Sindhu

India shuttler P.V. Sindhu. Sindhu will meet fellow Indian Saina Nehwal Dec. 23 in the Premier Badminton League Opener in Guwahati. (IANS photo)

GUWAHATI — The most famous rivalry in Indian badminton will be on display once again Dec. 23 when global superstars P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal lock horns at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium here and ensure a blockbuster opening to the third edition of the Premier Badminton League.

In what promises to be an exciting opener, the Sindhu-led Chennai Smashers, who are the defending champions, will meet Nehwal's Awadhe Warriors, the most consistent team of the league.

Sindhu, currently ranked No. 3 in the world, holds a 2-1 edge in her recent meetings against Nehwal, with her only loss coming in a riveting Senior National Championship final held at Nagpur last month.

It is not just a personal battle of the two Indian girls as they would also be looking to guide their respective teams to glory in a highly competitive league that also features the world's top players including men's World No. 1 Viktor Axlesson (Denmark) and women's No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying (Taiwan).

On the eve of the league opener, Sindhu underplayed her duel with Nehwal, instead emphasizing the stiff competition she will be up against in the next 23 days. 

"I'm looking forward to our opening match against Awadhe Warriors. It is not just my match against Saina, every match will be tough as there are some really strong teams out there. The competition is going to be really good," Sindhu said Dec. 22.

With World No. 1 in both men's and women's singles, eight 2017 World Championship medalists, nine Olympic medalists (including three multiple medal winners) competing in this edition, the league is easily the best among Olympic disciplines in the country.

The PBL is held under the aegis of the Badminton Association of India and is organized by Sportzlive, the official licensee partner of the league. It has already acquired the tag of being one of the richest badminton leagues with the teams battling for a total prize money of Rs. 6 crore.

Eight teams, including two new entrants Ahmedabad Smash Masters and North Eastern Warriors, will line up against each other in five cities beginning with Guwahati Dec. 23. 

And, each team will have one junior player travelling with their respective team to get the exposure and learn from the world's best.

Every day there will be one battle between two teams comprising five matches – men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles. Each match will be a three-game affair of 15 points and played under the Rally Points Scoring System. If scores are tied 14-14, the team scoring the 15th point first will win that game.

The top four finishers will play the semi-finals and finals to be held in Hyderabad.

BAI President Himanta Biswa Sarma believes the league will be a huge motivation for budding players. 

"With 40 of the world's best players in action, many young players will be inspired to do well and take part in the league in future," he said Dec. 22.

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