India Open: Sameer Verma stuns World No. 5

Ranked 39th, Sameer took out World No. 5 Son Won Ho 21-17, 21-10 in 45 minutes. Sindhu beat compatriot Arundhati Pantawane 21-17, 21-6, while Saina defeated Chinese Taipei’s Chia Hsin Lee 21-10, 21-17.

Sameer Verma reacts after winning a point against Son Won Ho.   -  Special Arrangement

Before the Indian exodus from four out of five sections picked up pace in the Yonex India Open super series badminton here, Sameer Verma gave the home crowd something to cheer about.

Ranked 39th, Sameer took out World No. 5 Son Won Ho 21-17, 21-10 in 45 minutes. During the day, Sameer’s elder brother Sourabh, B. Sai Praneeth and K. Srikanth also made the pre-quarterfinals following expected victories. Sourabh’s straight-game triumph over a not-so-fit H.S. Prannoy hardly came as a surprise.

Saina: ‘My knee still hurts when I play on the hard courts’

Against Son, Sameer changed gears by winning five straight points to lead for the first time and make it 15-10. Thereafter, the 2015 national champion went on to seal the first game. In the second game, Sameer never trailed and led comfortably to close the match.

In Wednesday’s pre-quarterfinals, the Verma brothers face players from Hong Kong with Sameer taking on World No. 15 Hu Yun and Sourabh facing Ng Ka Long Angus, ranked 10th. Srikanth will be up against third seed Victor Axelsen and Sai Praneeth meets seventh seed from Chinese Taipei Chou Tien Chen.

“I gifted her seven points, may be I was a bit anxious to finish the match. The score should have been 21-10, 21-10. She is a tricky player. She also plays doubles so some of her strokes were difficult to gauge. I am happy with my movement,” said Saina after the match.   -  Getty Images


Among the women, P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal joined Rituparna Das in the pre-quarterfinals. Sindhu expectedly prevailed over compatriot Arundhati Pantawane after Saina downed Chinese Taipie’s Chia Hsin Lee. Saina did admit losing her focus a bit in tossing away six points after being close to finishing the match. "I was a bit scared towards the end though I had a big lead. Ideally, I should have won the match 10-and-10," said the former champion.

Rituparna, ranked 52, got the better of 30th ranked Chiang Mei Hui of Chinese Taipei, now faces top seed Carolina Marin. In men’s doubles, as expected, the Indian challenge ended, with all seven pairs making first-round exit. N. Sikki Reddy was the only player to reach the second round of both doubles. The Sikki-Ashwini Ponnappa duo advanced with a 21-16, 21-16 triumph over England’s Gabrielle Adcock and Jessica Pugh.

With Pranav Chopra, Sikki entered the mixed doubles second round by beating the Indonesians Hafiz Faizal and Shela Devi Aulia 21-15. 21-19. Remaining four pairs involving Indians lost.

In women's doubles, apart from the Ashwini-Sikki duo, M. Shruti-Anoushika Parikh pair stayed alive after beating compatriots Gauri Asaji and Megha Bora 22-20, 21-8. Other eight pairs fell at the first hurdle.

First-round results (involving Indians, prefix denotes seeding):

Men: B. Sai Praneeth bt Kenta Nishimoto (Jpn) 16-21, 21-12, 21-19; Sameer Verma bt 4-Son Wan Ho (Kor) 21-17, 21-10; K. Srikanth bt Zhao Jungpeng (Chn) 21-19, 21-16; 3-Victor Axelsen (Den) bt Ajay Jayaram 23-21, 21-17; Sourabh Verma bt H. S. Prannoy 21-13, 21-16.

Women: Rituparna Das bt Chiang Mei Hui (Tpe) 19-21, 21-15, 21-19; 4-Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) bt P. C. Thulasi 21-15, 21-16; Lyanny Alessandra Mainaky (Ina) bt Sai Uttejitha Rao 21-17, 21-18; 7-Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) bt Tanvi Lad 6-2 (retired); Sayaka Sato (Jpn) bt Anura Prabhudesai 21-17, 21-16; 6-Saina Nehwal bt Chia Hsin Lee (Tpe) 21-10, 21-17; Saena Kawakami (Jpn) bt Rasika Raje 21-10, 21-12; 3-P.V. Sindhu bt Arundhati Pantawane 21-17, 21-6; Linda Zetchiri (Bul) bt Shreyanshi Pardeshi 21-14, 21-18; 2-Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) bt Sri Krishna Priya 21-11, 21-13.