Local favourite Sourabh Verma made it to the Syed Modi International Championships final with a 21-17, 16-21, 21-18 win over South Korea’s Heo Kwang-Hee in their semifinal face-off at Lucknow on Saturday.
Reigning Olympic Champion Carolina Marin also made it through to the finals with a straight games victory over South Korea’s Kim Ga Eun.
Verma’s triumph offset the disappointment of Rituparna Das, who lost her semifinal match against Thailand’s Phittayaporn Chaiwan.
Persistence pays off for Verma
Verma got off to a promising start against his semifinal opponent Heo. Choosing his shots wisely, the World No. 36 played a defensive game and went into the interval with a 11-7 lead. Maintaining his momentum after the break and staying one step ahead of Heo during the rallies, Verma clinched the first game 21-17.
The second game however, saw Heo come off the blocks rejuvenated and turn the tables on Verma. With better shot placement, Heo led 11-8 heading into the interval and stepped it up a notch further post the break, with Verma falling back as far back as 12-17 before losing the game 16-21.
This set up the third game, which proved to be the closest of the match, with neither side giving an inch. While Verma was at a slight disadvantage, he clawed his way back to narrowly lead 11-10 going into the interval. After the break, the two competitors were back at it, equalising the score on numerous occasions.
It was Heo who seemingly ran out of steam near the end, and once Verma reached game point, the Indian seized the opportunity to seal up the match 21-18 with a piercing smash and book a place in the final.
Fourth seed Carolina Marin was at the top of her game in her semifinal match against South Korea's Kim Ga Eun. That said, it wasn't all plain sailing for the reigning Olympic Champion, particularly in the opening game, as Kim put up a valiant fight.
Marin used the best of her abilities to confound Kim, manoeuvering her opponent to just where she wanted before sailing the shuttle in the other direction. Kim however, kept the three-time World Champion within her grasp, never trailing by more than two points. However, a backhand gone wrong during Marin's second sealed the game at 22-20 in Marin's favour.
The second game was a lot less dramatic, with Marin clearly having the upper hand for the entirety of the proceedings. The wind seemingly gone from her sails, Kim found herself trailing by five points (6-11), heading into the interval.
Following the break, Kim started taking a few more chances and got to within two points of Marin near the tail end of the game, at 18-16. However, her run soon stalled out, allowing Marin to cruise to a 21-16 victory and book a spot in Sunday’s final, where she will take on Thailand’s Phittayaporn Chaiwan.
End of the road for Das
Elsewhere in the women's singles draw, Rituparna Das gave it all she had but succumbed to Chaiwan.
Two-time Polish Open winner Das lost the tie-breaker 22-24 in the first game after coming back from a 1-6 deficit early in the going.
Das got a better start to the second game though, finding herself with a 7-3 advantage at one point but failed to maintain the momentum, eventually falling behind and losing the game 15-21.
Where to watch the Syed Modi finals?
Sourabh Verma and Carolina Marin will be in the finals action on Sunday, December 1.
The matches will be telecast live on Star Sports and live-streamed on Hotstar.
Coverage starts on Star Sports 3 at 2 PM IST.