A gritty Sameer Verma pulled off a thrilling three-game victory over China’s Lu Guangzu in the men’s singles finals to retain the title at the Syed Modi International World Tour Super 300 in Lucknow on November 25.
The 24-year-old from Madhya Pradesh showed immaculate defence and a never-say-die attitude to eke out a 16-21 21-19 21-14 win in the finals against 22-year-old Lu, who has won the Australian Open and Canada Open this year.
This was Sameer’s third title win, following victories at Swiss Open and Hyderabad Open.
The victory will also help him 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.
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 in judgement at the backline followed by Lu’s three smashes – – two at his backhand and one at his forehand — 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 seemed more positive in his approach as he levelled the scores with three points.
But Lu again turned the tide, stepping up the pace and smashed 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 spitting 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 decider.
Sameer strengthened his defence and used the momentum of the second game to dominate early in the decider.
He led 6-7 but Lu once again scripted a recovery, reeling off seven straight points to claw back at 7-7 and then led 10-7.
Sameer unleashed a body smash to break the run of points and then hit two 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.