New Zealand Open 2018: Sameer Verma, Sai Praneeth reach quarter-finals; Lakshya Sen goes down fighting to Lin Dan

lakshya sen
Lakshya Sen impressed everyone before losing to Lin Dan

Third seed B Sai Praneeth and fifth seed Sameer Verma became the only Indians to reach the quarter-finals of the New Zealand Open 2018 as Lakshya Sen and Ajay Jayaram exited this Super 300 tournament in Auckland on Thursday.

Sai needed 46 minutes to prevail over World No. 42 Daren Liew 21-18, 21-17. The 2017 Singapore Open Superseries winner next takes on the 129th ranked Niluka Karunaratne of Sri Lanka for a place in the semi-finals.

Verma staved off a stiff challenge from World No. 38 Lee Cheuk Yiu in the second game to notch up a 21-17, 21-19 win in 44 minutes. The World No. 26 has a tough task up next as he crosses swords with the top seed and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan.

The two have never met before. The Chinese legend has reached only one final this year at the All England Championships, where he went down in three games to compatriot, Shi Yuqi.

In contrast, Verma has already triumphed at the Swiss Open and had accounted for the newly-crowned Asian champion Kento Momota and former World No. 2 Han O Jorgensen on his way to the title.

Sen takes a game off Dan

Meanwhile, Lin Dan ended the run of the former junior World No. 1 Lakshya Sen in the second round. The 16-year-old began the match on a positive note, clinching the first game 21-15. But the former World No. 1 grew in confidence as the match continued and wore him down by varying the placement of the shuttle.

At the end of the 1 hour 7 minute battle, Dan emerged a 15-21, 21-15, 21-12 winner.

Regardless of the final outcome, the performance surely reaffirmed that the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy product is one of the most talented rising stars from India.

Former India No. 1 Ajay Jayaram fought back to snatch a game before being downed 15-21, 22-20, 6-21 by Korea’s Kwang Hee Heo. The 30-year-old, who has slipped out of the top 100, is now clawing his way back after being sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Fifth seeded men’s doubles combine of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy comfortably beat Pakin Kuna-Anuvit and Natthapat Trinkajee 21-9, 21-12. Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram were outplayed 15-21, 6-21 by the women’s doubles top seeds Della Destiara Haris and Rizki Amelia Pradipta of Indonesia.

The two Indian mixed doubles pairs also bowed out. While Shivam Sharma and Poorvisha lost 16-21 14-21 to eighth seeds Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh, Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg were beaten 11-21, 11-21 by top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

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