19-year-old shuttler Anders Antonsen hoping to join pantheon of Danish greats
What’s the story?
The men’s singles competition at the Yonex Sunrise India Open Superseries has entered the semi-final phase and will not feature any Indian in the final four after Sameer Verma was knocked out by Danish prodigy Anders Antonsen. The match ended in straight games at 24-22 21-19, both of which were fought very closely and decided by the narrowest of margins.
The 19-year-old Dane was clearly delighted with his victory in the post-match press conference as he entered the semi-finals of a Superseries for the first time in his career. He said, “I’m really proud of my performance. I’m happy that I was able to stay calm in the pressure moments and did not get frustrated when I lost a point.”
He lavished praise on his 22-year-old opponent, saying, “Sameer is a really tough opponent to face. He is very fast on the court and does not make many mistakes. So, I’m really delighted with my result.” The youngster also explained how he made the difficult decision of leaving school and focusing on playing badminton full-time.
Denmark has had a rich heritage of world-class badminton players – from the legendary Peter Gade to the powerful Victor Axelsen. Antonsen says that he wants to make a name for himself and not model his game on any other player.
He said, “Yes, there are a lot of players back home who I can look up to for advice. But, I want to have my own style and make a unique place for myself in the sport. Hopefully, my name will be taken along with the likes of Gade and Jorgensen (Jan O) in the coming years.”
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Verma was enjoying a dream run in the competition, defeating two much higher-ranked opponents in the previous two rounds. Antonsen, who reached the Round of 16 at the recent Syed Modi International, had defeated Kazumasa Sakai in the first round and received a walkover from German Marc Zwiebler in the pre-quarters.
The heart of the matter
After a tense start that saw both shuttlers trade points, Verma picked up the pace to go in leading at the break 11-8. However, the Dane continued to remain within touching distance as the scored continued to remain tied after 38 grueling points.
The Indian then had a game point opportunity at 20-19 which he was unable to convert. Antonsen then proceeded to spurn two game points of his own, before closing the set out at 24-22 on his third attempt, as Verma pushed out a backhand beyond the baseline.
The second set saw some high-quality play as well and it was Verma again who looked to be in the ascendancy as he raced to a 17-13 lead. However, the lanky Dane went on to win six of the next seven points and with the scores tied at 19-19, he held his nerve well to force a match point chance.
This time around, only one opportunity was enough for him as Antonsen finished the second game at 21-19.
The semi-finals of the men’s singles will feature two Danish shuttlers in the form of Antonsen and top seed Victor Axelsen. They will face off against Chou Tien Chen from Chinese Taipei and Ng Ka Long Angus from Hong Kong respectively for a place in the final.
Despite Verma’s best efforts, Antonsen was able to pick up a well-deserved victory to earn his first ever chance to enter a Superseries final. It will be fascinating to see how he will fare against his much more experienced opponent and whether we will get to see two shuttlers from Denmark in the final.