New Zealand Open 2018: Sai Praneeth enters semi-finals, Sameer Verma loses to Lin Dan
Indian shuttlers at the New Zealand Open 2018 had contrasting fortunes on Friday as B Sai Praneeth could win his quarter-final but Sameer Verma failed to do so. The third seeded Sai had absolutely no problems in dismissing the challenge of Sri Lanka’s World No. 129 Niluka Karunaratne 21-7, 21-9 in just 28 minutes to seal a berth in the last-four stage of this Super 300 tournament in Auckland.
The 25-year-old next takes on the second seed and World No. 14 Jonatan Christie of Indonesia. The 18th ranked Sai leads their head-to-head record 1-0. The Indian had a close three-game duel with Christie a year back on his way to clinching the Thailand Open.
Sameer Verma, on the other hand, fought hard in the first game against Lin Dan but was thoroughly outplayed in the second as he went down 19-21, 9-21 to the two-time Olympic champion. In his first ever meeting with the former World No. 1, the fifth seeded Verma recovered from a 4-10 deficit to win eight points on the trot and build a 12-10 lead.
After the Chinese levelled matters at 12-12, the 26th ranked Sameer once more seized control and raced ahead to 18-14. It was there where the complexion of the match again changed with the Chinese legend taking five points in a row to inch ahead to 19-18.
Even though the Indian drew level again after that at 19-19, Dan showed his vast experience to close out the opener at 21-19 with a delicate drop.
Sameer was absolutely no match for his highly accomplished opponent in the second game. Dan showed great movement and kept Verma guessing by varying the placement of the shuttle.
The 34-year-old opened up a 4-1 lead and extended it further to 11-5. Sameer’s mounting errors did not help his cause at all and he succumbed to a defeat in 40 minutes.
Verma has been in good form this season. This was the fourth quarter-final in six tournaments for the 23-year-old, who triumphed at the Swiss Open in February.