Mumbai Rockets: Hoping for a Korean rocket to ignite!

Mumbai Rockets will be looking to World No. 5 Son Wan Ho of Korea, the 2017 World Championship bronze medallist, to spearhead its campaign in the PBL in the company of India’s 23-year-old Sameer Verma in men’s singles.

South Korea’s Son Wan Ho... Mumbai Rockets’ main astronaut.   -  AFP

Will Mumbai Rockets be third time lucky having made it to the finals in the last two editions? Clearly, it should look to World No. 5 Son Wan Ho of Korea, the 2017 World Championship bronze medallist, to spearhead its campaign in the PBL in the company of India’s 23-year-old Sameer Verma in men’s singles.

Sameer, whose best in 2017 was the quarterfinal appearance in the Korean Open after shocking World No. 13 Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand, incidentally lost to his current Mumbai teammate Son Wan Ho.

Once ranked World No. 17, Sameer has dropped to No. 30 now because of injury breaks and hopes to regain his wonted form in this year’s PBL.

Sameer, winner of the 2017 Syed Modi International Open beating B. Sai Praneeth in the final, is known to have good control over dribbles and wonderful retrieval skills, relying more on placement than power.

But, it will be the 29-year-old Son Wan Ho, a Rio Olympics quarterfinalist, who has to deliver the goods if Mumbai is to make an impact.

Like many contemporary stars from Korea, Son Wan was also a member of the Sudirman Cup-winning team and should be a dangerous customer to face on his day as Chen Long realised in the 2014 Hong Kong Open final. Son Wan cost the team Rs. 50 lakh.

In women’s singles, the 27-year-old Chinese-born, US-settled Beiwen Zhang is the leading player in the team. Her best performances in 2017 were winning the Dutch Open and finishing runner-up in the Bitburger Open.

Mumbai’s fortunes too depend a lot on the 29-year-old Korean Lee Yong Dae, the 2008 Olympics mixed doubles gold medallist with a stunning record of winning 43 Super Series titles (37 in men’s doubles and six in mixed doubles) to be the World No. 1 in men’s doubles for a record 104 consecutive weeks with Yoo Yeong Seong as partner.

For Mumbai, Lee Yong Dae is likely to partner the 30-year-old Tan Boon Heong, a former World No. 1 in men’s doubles and a former silver medallist in the Worlds.

Heong and Koo Ki Keat became the first Malaysian pair to reach the 2010 World Championship final and also won the 2007 All-England championship.

The women’s doubles will feature the 23-year-old Bulgarian Gabriela Stoeva. With sister Stefani, she was the winner of the European women’s doubles in 2015 and the silver in 2017. The pair was also the runner-up in the 2017 Swiss Open.

Previous performances: Two times finalist.

Quote: “Frankly, there will be little to choose, for reputations don’t matter in this format where every match counts. Yes, we have a very good singles player in Son Wan and also experienced doubles combinations which are crucial to any team’s campaign. We should be strong contenders to win the title.” – Sameer Verma.