AS THEÃÂ battle-lines for the third edition of the Premier Badminton League are drawn, the marquee players of all the eight teams in fray squared up here on Wednesday, with each promising to set the courts on fire.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe go into the league as the defending champions and we are quite confident of repeating our last yearÃ¢â¬â¢s performance,Ã¢â¬Â he said at the press conference held to launch the league.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe have the team that has already gone the distance. If anything, we are better this year,Ã¢â¬Â he added.
Yan will, however, be aware that the SainaÃ¢â¬â¢s Warriors who have been the most consistent squad in the PBL.
Saina herself is counting on that to begin her teamÃ¢â¬â¢s campaign on a high note.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe have made it to the knock-out stages of all the editions so far. It was nothing but bad luck that prevented us from winning the trophy,Ã¢â¬Â she pointed out.
Ã¢â¬ÅBut we are upbeat about our chances in this edition and will give it our all to bring the trophy home,Ã¢â¬Â the 2017 World championship bronze medallist added.
PBL is held under the aegis of the Badminton Association of India and is organised by Sportzlive, the official licensee partner of the league. It has already acquired the tag of being one of the richest badminton leagues and attracts all the top players, with the teams battling for total prize money of INR 6 crore.
PBL 3 itself goes to the next level as it becomes a strong 8-team league, with the addition of two more franchises and a 23 days long tournament which will see ÃÂ players and 10 Olympic Medallists fighting it out.
HS Prannoy, the most successful menÃ¢â¬â¢s singles player during the last edition, will lead new entrants Ahmedabad Smash MastersÃ¢â¬â¢ challenge and is hopeful of a great outing.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe are a new team and have been gelling very well. We will be the team to watch out for. Believe me when I say this, we will be the team to beat,Ã¢â¬Â he said.
Tian Houwei, the lone Chinese player in PBL - 3, will turn up for Delhi Dashers and feels his team has enough firepower to light up the league.
Ã¢â¬ÅI am new to this league but after looking at the teams, I can say that we are no way behind any squad and have all the ingredients to go all the way,Ã¢â¬Â he said.
Another new entrant to the league, North Eastern Warriors, will be spearheaded by the likes of Ajay Jayaram and Tzu Wei Wang of Chinese Taipei.
Ajay was confident ahead of the league and said,
Ã¢â¬ÅIf you look at our team composition, you can see that we have the most balanced squad, with the right kind of players for every encounter. We are confident and know that we have it in us to go all the way.Ã¢â¬Â
Spanish superstar Carolina Marin will hope to do better for Hyderabad Hunters this year and exorcise the demons of the last season where they were knocked-out in the semis.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe had come really close last season and it was really sad that we could not go on to win the title. But we will come out all guns blazing and make sure that we lay our hands on the title,Ã¢â¬Â the former World no. 1 said.
Last yearÃ¢â¬â¢s finalist Mumbai Rockets will be led by Korean star Son Wan Ho and his squad will have a point to prove.
Ã¢â¬ÅWe were the finalists last year and even though this is a new squad we are confident of going all the way. Also on the personal front, I did not have a great outing last season and I am eager to make amends to that as well,Ã¢â¬Â Son Wan said.
Vodafone is the title sponsor for the league while Indian Oil (Servo) has come on as the Powered by sponsor with Bajaj Electricals being the associate sponsors. Bisleri is the official pouring partner and Star Sports is the official broadcaster.
Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, President of Badminton Association of India (BAI), was confident of the leagueÃ¢â¬â¢s success and said,
Ã¢â¬ÅWe are delighted to be back once again and we are hopeful of a great show. With so many world-class players in action, I am quite sure the fans will be in for a great treat.Ã¢â¬Â
Atul Pande, Managing Director of Sportzlive, said,
Ã¢â¬ÅWe are confident of a great show and are hoping to break all the previous records set by the league. We are very thankful to BAI for their guidance and believe that with their continued support we can take the league to unprecedented heights along.Ã¢â¬Â
Expressing his delight over VodafoneÃ¢â¬â¢s association with the league, Siddharth Banerjee, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Vodafone India, said,
"Vodafone, as one India's most loved brands, continues to partner with our customers to enable them to be at their personal best, or as we say, #BeSuper. Our association with PBL acknowledges our belief that the future is exciting for our Badminton stars on the global stage. We wish the PBL team a fantastic season ahead and look forward to creating more excitement and delight for our Vodafone customers.Ã¢â¬Â
The matches will be telecast on Star Sports HD 1 and Star Sports 1 from 7 PM onwards and streamed live on Hot Star.