Tago shot down by Sourabh Verma

New Delhi: Sourabh Verma, a young prodigy unknown outside a small bunch of Indian badminton followers, continued his sensational run at the India Open Superseries by dumping out seventh seed Kenichi Tago of Japan in the second round on Wednesday. Verma’s fellow-trainee at the Gopichand Academy, Guru Sai Dutt, joined him in the quarterfinals with a 21-13 14-21 21-13 result over Belgium’s Tan Yuhan. There was a big upset in the women’s singles as well, with second seed Tine Baun capitulating to Chen Jiayuan of Singapore.

Verma, a fast-improving youngster who has been overshadowed by the likes of HS Prannoy and Sai Praneeth, stitched together his second big win in two days. Having come through qualifying, he dumped Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the first round before ambushing Kenichi Tago 21-19 18-21 21-11. This must rank as one of the finest performances by an Indian men’s singles player in recent times.

Sourabh, who is ranked 218 in the world, sent out a wave of euphoria across the sparse crowd when he beat the world No 25 Japanese in 60 minutes.

The 20-year-old did not allow his higher-ranked opponent to settle down and varied the pace of the game, playing an array of strokes. He moved fast on the court and kept the shuttle flat while serving.

In the first game, Sourabh failed to judge the shuttle well but caught up with Tago at 15-15 before wrapping it up at 21-19.

Not ready to give up, the Japanese opened up a three-point lead at 12-9 in the second game and though Sourabh drew parity at 16-16, he surged ahead to bounce back.

In the decider, Sourabh stepped up the gas and employed a more aggressive approach to open up a huge 6-0 lead as Tago’s game crumbled. “The last match had given me a lot of confidence and I knew if I play well, I can beat him. I made sure that I didn’t repeat the last match’s mistakes and tried to control the game. We were equal in speed and power as we both are young and so it was tiring in the third game. But I didn’t want to defend so I went for my strokes in the third and was aggressive from the start,” Sourabh said.

While Sourabh was swift and fluent on the court, Guru Sai was slow and sluggish, but the Andhra Pradesh lad was still good enough for his Belgium opponent.

While in the first game, the world No 52 Indian didn’t give Tan any chance, he was erratic in the second, conceding a lot of points through enforced errors, as the 78-ranked Belgian fought back into contention.

But Guru Sai got his act together quickly in the decider and moved ahead 10-1 to seal a place in the quarters. (With agency inputs)

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About badmintonmania

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the Indian in Thoreau's Walden who makes cane baskets and is surprised nobody wants them. A. was talking about discipline when she said: "But Dev, if you want to move ahead in life, you'll have to be like that," and she may as well have defined everything else for me. I've played the low percentage game for too long to believe there's anything in it but the romance; the odds keep getting jacked up higher and higher; and you may be a good Idealist but a worse Fool.
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