Hyderabad Open champion Sourabh Verma showed great focus and consistency as he won both his qualification games at the 2019 Hong Kong Open Super 500 to make it to the main draw of the competition. The 26-year-old will now face French shuttler Brice Leverdez in the opening round, with a potential tie against compatriot Srikanth Kidambi lined up in round two.
Apart from Verma’s triumph, it was a day of bittersweet results for India’s mixed team shuttlers as the team of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa won a thrilling match against the Thai duo of Savitree Amitrapai and Nipitphon Phuangphuapet, while Pranaav Chopra and N Sikki Reddy were eliminated from the competition by Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, also of Thailand.
Earlier in the day, Verma was pitted against Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. The first game was evenly contested, with both shuttlers broke each other’s serve with relative ease.
However, post the mid-game interval, the Indian began to assert his authority on the game as he picked up six out of the next eight points to take a 17-12 lead and ultimately sealed the game 21-15.
The second game was a close affair as Saensomboonsuk never allowed his opponent to run away with a huge lead, pegging him back at every opportunity. The Indian’s best run in that game was when picked up four consecutive points, but even then the Thai hit back to make for a close finish with the scores 18-18.
Verma’s experience and composed play though helped him get over the line, with a 21-19 win.
The Indian shuttler continued his form in the second qualification match, this time against Lucas Claerbout just a few hours later.
Verma was trailing 11-13 at one point in the first game but rallied back brilliantly to claim a 21-19 win. The Indian matched that scoreline in the second game as well, to progress to the main draw of the 2019 Hong Kong Open.
There was further joy for India’s shuttlers, as the mixed doubles team of Rankireddy and Ponnappa fought back to defeat Thailand’s Amitrapai and Phuangphuapet. The Indians lost the first game 16-21 but raised their game to complete a thrilling 16-21, 21-19, 21-17 comeback victory. The Indian duo will now play either Japan’s Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino or Ming Nok Yeung and Ng Tsz Yau of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Chopra and Sikki Reddy stumbled at the first hurdle as they came up short against the third-seed Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai. The Indians started off well with the score at five apiece in the first game, but the Thai shuttlers began to pull away later, picking up five points on the trot to get a comfortable 21-10 win.
The second game was much more evenly contested, with Chopra and Sikki Reddy matching their Thai counterparts for most parts, but they ultimately lost 18-21 to bow out of the competition.