Sameer Verma fought valiantly, but could not replicate his semifinal magic as he lost 14-21, 21-10, 11-21 to NG Ka Long Angus in the final of the Hong Kong Open today. Sameer raised hopes with a clinical second game, but lost the plot in the third to falter in his first Superseries final appearance.
Sameer Verma's entry into the top-50 of the world rankings was swift, but the Indian had plateaued ever since and has been languishing in the 40s. However, after failing at the initial hurdles time and again in the past, the former Junior World No.1 suddenly made a deep run at the Hong Kong Open – his first Superseries quarterfinal, semifinal and now his first final.
Coach Gopichand, ahead of the match, had said, "The last few weeks I have been working with Sameer and it feels so good to see him perform.” Sameer has taken some risks, but they had ended well on the day to see the youngster suddenly in the final of a Superseries.
In fact, Gopi had a double Sunday with PV Sindhu as well playing in the final earlier. However, she had the misfortune of facing World No.3 Tai tzu Ying at her magical best and went down fighting. Sameer's prospects looked brighter though – he had just defeated World No.3 Jan Jorgensen in straight sets and now faced NG Ka Long Angus, the World No. 14. The duo were no strangers as they had faced each other thrice in the junior circuit with Sameer coming out on top on two occasions.
It was Angus who started briskly with Sameer committing unforced errors and playing some loose shots to give Angus ample attacking opportunities and go up 1-7 (* all scores in the format Sameer-Angus). Probably, it was the occasion getting to him, but Sameer was just playing into Angus' hands by lofting the shuttle into the back-court and allowing him time. Angus was more than willing to take the gifts and brought up a 5-11 lead.
However, Sameer came back stronger after the break pulling Angus more often to the net. The ploy worked as Angus' attacks ended up more on the strings and Sameer soon closed the gap to 12-13. It was only a missed drop from Sameer that gave Angus the serve again finally.
But the Chinese player took the initiative back with his attacking play from the back and closed out the game at 14-21.
In the second game, Sameer moved to a more forward position on the court initially, and Angus' attempts to push him back went awry as his shots misfired out of bounds. Sameer brought up a 7-2 lead with a delightful feinted drop after apparently going for a jump-smash.
Sameer went into the break with a six-point lead on the back of a brilliant rally – after three back-to-back reflex returns from the forecourt to break Angus' attacks, he brought up a down-the-line smash to go 11-5 up.
Sameer shut down a brief show of resistance by Angus with a lovely rally at 13-7 throwing attack after attack at his opponent's resolute defence to be finally helped by a lucky touch of the net on his last smash. Sameer brought up game point at 20-10 with some delightful attacks from the net and took the game at the first chance thanks to an unforced error from Angus.
Angus started the third game with a ferocious smash as Sameer kept giving him time on the shuttle with his lofted shots. Even though the Indian came up with some great returns, Angus took a 1-4 lead early on.
Sameer's defensive gameplay only saw fall in confidence and as errors crept up, he gave up a crucial 4-11 lead to Angus by the break.
At 6-12, the duo engaged in a long rally that saw both attacking and defending in turns, before Sameer was forced into a diving return only to watch helplessly as Angus glided ahead and drove the shuttle into the backcourt. That appeared to mark the end of all fight from Sameer as Angus brought up Championship point soon at 11-20 and won it at the first attempt.
Despite the loss, this only appears to be the first of Sameer's Superseries final appearances, and he would do well to take the lessons from the loss.