Syed Modi International: Sameer defends title, Saina loses in final

Syed Modi International: Sameer defends title, Saina loses in final
Indian shuttler Sameer Verma.
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Lucknow: A gritty Sameer Verma produced a sensational performance to defend his men's singles title, making up for the failure of his compatriots in the other finals at the USD 150,000 Syed Modi International here Sunday.

World no 16 Sameer defeated China's Lu Guangzu 16-21, 21-19, 21-14 in a pulsating summit clash to lift the trophy for the second successive time even as Saina Nehwal, men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and women's doubles combination of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy bite the dust.

Former champion Saina failed to produce her best, losing 18-21, 8-21 to young Chinese Han Yue - a 2017 world junior championship silver medallist - in a lop-sided women's singles summit clash.

Saina, who won a gold and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games respectively, had ended second best at the Indonesia Masters in January and Denmark Open in October this year.

Earlier, Commonwealth Games silver medallists Satwiksairaj and Chirag also went down 11-21, 20-22 to second seeds Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia to settle for the runners-up prize in the men's doubles competition.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ashwini and Sikki also couldn't live up to the expectations, losing 15-21, 13-21 to third seeded Malaysian pair of Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean in women's doubles final. The Indian pair had lost in the finals in the last edition as well.

Sameer then brightened up the dismal day with his never-say-die attitude to claim his third title of the season, following victories at Swiss Open and Hyderabad Open.

His performance helped him gather enough ranking points to surpass Japan's Kenta Nishimoto at no 8 in the HSBC Race to Guangzhou Rankings and qualify for the year-ending BWF World Tour Finals to be held in December.

Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu is the only other Indian to have qualified for the prestigious tournament in China.

Sameer played patiently, constructing the rallies with his repertoire of strokes to dominate early in the opening game. He led 6-2 initially, before extending it to 8-4.

An error of judgement at the backline followed by Lu's three smashes saw the Chinese claw back at 8-8.

Lu unleashed another down-the-line smash to lead 10-8 before he entered the break after winning a fast-paced rally.

After the interval, Sameer looked more positive in his approach as he levelled the scores with three straight points.

But Lu again turned the tide, smashing his way to a comfortable 20-14 lead when the Indian hit wide. Sameer saved two points before another smash earned Lu the bragging rights.

The second game saw some exciting rallies right from the start with Sameer grinding out a 10-7 lead after splitting the initial 14 points. The Indian grabbed an 11-8 lead at the breather after Lu hit long.

After the break, Lu kept snapping at Sameer's heels, finding gaps in his rival's defence to narrow the lead to 13-14 and then turned the tables when Sameer hit the net.

A wide smash from Lu again gave the lead to Sameer at 17-16. But two precise returns helped Lu to draw parity at 18-18.

Another fast-paced rally ended with Lu hitting wide and he found the net next to hand two game points to Sameer. The Indian missed the line once but produced an accurate return at the backline to take the match to the decider.

Sameer strengthened his defence and used the momentum of the second game to dominate early in the decider.

He led 7-3 but Lu once again scripted a recovery, reeling off seven straight points to led 10-7.

Sameer then unleashed a body smash and hit two more sizzling smashes to make it 10-10. Lu went to the net next as Sameer managed a slender 11-10 advantage at the break.

The Indian took the next two points after the change of sides before an excellent drop shot left him sprawling on the floor.

The Indian showed immaculate defence and pounced on the chances to eke out a 16-12 lead with the help of better net game and a couple of rasping shots.

Lu crumbled after that, hitting long and wide to hand over six match points to Sameer, who converted them as the Chinese hit the net.

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