BWF World Tour Finals 2018: Can Sameer Verma shine on debut?
World No. 14 Sameer Verma has been India’s most consistent men’s singles shuttler in a season where Kidambi Srikanth simply couldn’t replicate his 2017 heroics. HS Prannoy too failed to steal the show through an array of injuries and surprising losses.
Verma, the 24-year-old from Dhar in Madhya Pradesh, quietly plodded his way through the circuit after seeing his early promise go up in smoke due to incessant injuries. The younger of the Verma brothers made an impression very early on in his junior days, capturing a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships and a silver medal at the Asian Junior Championships.
That he was immensely talented was never in doubt. However, his constant battle with injuries didn't allow him the time to flourish and become the player that he could be.
It all changed this year. With a much better fitness level, Verma has come into his own, racking up the wins that he was always expected to have.
It was the Swiss Open week in February that thoroughly displayed his capabilities. He beat both Kento Momota and Kantaphon Wangcharoen -- two of his opponents at the BWF World Tour Finals this week -- to grab the Super 300 title.
Even though he slightly lost his way in between, reaching a few quarter-finals helped him stay close to the qualification mark. It was not until the Hyderabad Open in September that he tasted glory once more.
That firmly put him among the ones looking to get a much-coveted berth in Guangzhou. Verma slipped out of the top-eight at the very end of the race and all he needed to do was to successfully defend his Syed Modi International title to be in the reckoning again.
Under pressure, the Pullela Gopichand protégé excelled, delighting the Lucknow crowd, thereby confirming his maiden appearance at the season-ender.
Sameer proved his mettle and underlined why exactly he deserved that place among the very best of the season. And now, having made it through at the last moment, he can even harbour hopes of making it to the semi-finals.
A quick comparison of PV Sindhu and Sameer Verma’s groups will tell any badminton aficionado that he is the one better placed out of the two Indians.
Sameer is in Group B with the aforementioned Momota and Wangcharoen, as well as Indonesian veteran Tommy Sugiarto. And that has brightened up his prospects of advancing from the group, especially because he is tied 1-1 in the head-to-head meetings with each of his three opponents.
Of course, it needs to be pointed out that dealing with Momota now might not turn out to be as rosy as it was for the Indian 10 months ago. A lot has transpired since that win. Momota has made a stunning comeback from his suspension to become an even better version of himself.
The southpaw practically owned the BWF World Tour this year, triumphing in as many as seven events, which include the World Championships and the Asian Championships.
Momota is absolutely riding high on confidence right now, playing the best badminton of his life. It might be an arduous task to puncture his self-belief and subject him to a defeat. Besides, Sameer does suffer time and again from mid-match lapses where he simply spirals into an abyss of errors.
A repeat of that could be harmful to whatever little chance the Indian has against the World No. 1 in his opening match on December 12.
Even though his opener is likely not to go his way, Sameer can be expected to bounce back in his next two matches, considering the mental fortitude he showed to qualify for this event.
Sugiarto has a lot more experience than Sameer but consistency hasn’t been his forte at the age of 30. Wangcharoen, at a world rank of 17, is the lowest-ranked player to get an entry in men’s singles this year. Sameer’s three-game victory over the Thai at this year’s Swiss Open could come in handy there and facilitate his way to the semi-finals.