MUMBAI: The power ladies of badminton — PV Sindhu, Carolina Marin and Saina Nehwal — sat at the centre of the stage, in an enthusiastic conversation. Sindhu won the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou on Sunday, Marin regained her title as world champion and Saina claimed gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Having each won a piece of glory in a long, tough season, they will wind down with some more court time as the Premier Badminton League returns on Saturday.
As expected, Sindhu and Marin will be the focus on the opening day as their respective teams — Hyderabad Hunters and the newly-minted Pune 7 Aces — face-off at Mumbai’s NSCI Dome. The two have produced some high-octane classics on the world stage, but it is unlikely they will bring the same intensity at the league, dubbed by Nehwal as a ‘festival of badminton’, after 12 months of wear and tear.
The timing of the tournament has always been under scrutiny, but more so this year given the players protesting the over-loaded calendar. Starting this year, the BWF has made 12 events mandatory for the top players. And with the Gold Coast CWG and Asian Games in Jakarta also taking place, the shuttlers were torn over their schedule. But the PBL takes place at the end of the year because that’s the only window provided on the BWF calendar.
“It’s tough,” said the recently-married Nehwal in Mumbai.
“Some aren’t easy to play because you feel tired or that you’re not mentally ready to play. It mostly happens towards the end of the season, but then again there is no such ‘end of season’. There are already many tournaments in January. So there isn’t really any time you get off or be fresh. A lot of players are also getting injured. We’ve spoken about it, but they just want to go ahead with the same schedule and we have to manage it."
“The PBL is not the same as a regular tournament. This is a team event that you enjoy playing. For us, it’s something like a festival that we enjoy for 3 weeks, where we can see so many different matches that we don’t get to see on the international circuit. It’s also good for the youngsters to get to see that. It’s a positive sign.”
The PBL has expanded from eight teams in 2017 to nine this year, increasing the player base to 90. Nehwal, Sindhu and Marin fetched the maximum price of Rs 80 lakh.