Dev S Sukumar. Bangalore
Sameer Verma became only the second Indian ever in the final of the Badminton Asia Youth Under-19 Championships, defeating Liu Kai of China at the UP Badminton Academy hall at Lucknow on Friday. However, compatriot PV Sindhu fell in the semis, to Sun Yu, also of China.
Sameer’s entry into the final gives him the opportunity to become only the second Indian to win the title – earlier known as the Junior ABC (Asian Badminton Confederation) after Gautam Thakkar in 1976. Sameer will take on Malaysian second seed Zulfikli Zulfadli in the title round.
Sameer’s run was astounding, as he beat an Indonesian and two Chinese on his way to the final. Even coach Gopichand was impressed. “Before the tournament started, I thought he could reach the quarterfinals,” he told DNA. “But the way he has been playing, I believed he had a chance today. He’s been beating some good players, not just Chinese, but also Indonesians and Malaysians.”
The first game was a close affair, and both players remained apace until Sameer annexed the last two points. The second too was close, but after 13-all, Liu Kai suddenly ran away with five straight points.
The loss of the second game made absolutely no impression on Verma, for he shot off to a 13-2 and 15-9 lead before wrapping up the match.
“He’s able to keep the shuttle low, and he’s got a lot of variations on his grip,” said Gopi. “He’s a little similar to his brother (Sourabh); both of them have great self-belief. I’m happy with the performance of the whole team. Even K Srikanth has been very good, and I’m very happy with the doubles too. Earlier, we weren’t so good in all the disciplines, but now we have around eight players who are a good bet for the future.”
Earlier, PV Sindhu, also Gopi’s trainee like Sameer, started off well against Sun Yu. She took the first game at 21-13, but her challenge fell away after the early stages of the second game.
Results (Semifinals): MS: Sameer Verma bt Liu Kai (Chn) 21-19 15-21 21-9; 2-Zulkiffli Zulfadli (Mas) bt Momota Kento (Jpn) 21-18 21-19
WS: Sun Yu (Chn) bt 4-PV Sindhu 13-21 21-12 21-10; Shen Yaying (Chn) bt Hui Xirui (Chn) 23-21 21-17