INDIA OPEN 2011 R16 – The Tago-ny of defeat!

Sourabh Verma continued his sensational run at home, stumping Japan’s Kenichi Tago in Round 2. Dev Sukumar/ DNA.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives) Sourabh Verma, a young prodigy unknown outside a small […]

Sourabh Verma continued his sensational run at home, stumping Japan’s Kenichi Tago in Round 2.

Dev Sukumar/ DNA.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Sourabh Verma, a young prodigy unknown outside a small bunch of Indian badminton followers, continued his sensational run at the by dumping out seventh seed Kenichi Tago (pictured) of Japan in the second round on Wednesday. Verma’s fellow-trainee at the Gopichand Academy, Guru Sai Dutt, joined him in the quarter-finals with a 21-13, 14-21, 21-13 result over Belgium’s Tan Yuhan. There was a big upset in the women’s singles as well, with second seed Tine Baun capitulating to Chen Jiayuan of Singapore.

Verma, a fast-improving youngster who has been overshadowed by the likes of HS Prannoy and Sai Praneeth, stitched together his second big win in two days. Having come through qualifying, he dumped Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the first round before ambushing Kenichi Tago. This must rank as one of the finest performances by an Indian men’s singles player in recent times.

Sourabh, who is ranked 218 in the world, sent out a wave of euphoria across the sparse crowd when he beat the world No 25 Japanese in 60 minutes.

The 20-year-old did not allow his higher-ranked opponent to settle down and varied the pace of the game, playing an array of strokes. He moved fast on the court and kept the shuttle flat while serving.

In the first game, Sourabh failed to judge the shuttle well but caught up with Tago at 15-15 before wrapping it up at 21-19.

Not ready to give up, the Japanese opened up a three-point lead at 12-9 in the second game and though Sourabh drew parity at 16-16, he surged ahead to bounce back.

In the decider, Sourabh stepped up the gas and employed a more aggressive approach to open up a huge 6-0 lead as Tago’s game crumbled.

“The last match had given me a lot of confidence and I knew if I play well, I can beat him. I made sure that I didn’t repeat the last match’s mistakes and tried to control the game. We were equal in speed and power as we both are young and so it was tiring in the third game. But I didn’t want to defend so I went for my strokes in the third and was aggressive from the start,” Sourabh said.

While Sourabh was swift and fluent on the court, Guru Sai was slow and sluggish, but the Andhra Pradesh lad was still good enough for his Belgian opponent.

While in the first game, the world No 52 Indian didn’t give Tan any chance, he was erratic in the second, conceding a lot of points through enforced errors, as the 78-ranked Belgian fought back into contention.

But Guru Sai got his act together quickly in the decider and moved ahead 10-1 to seal a place in the quarters.

“It was good match, I had to win it. I was slow and rusty today. I was okay when I was practicing in the morning, but once I stepped on to the court, I was not moving fast. He was good at the nets. He was pushing me behind but I was ready in the third game,” he said.

“I have played him before and won the last encounter as well. I need to recover well and be ready for the next match.”

This is the second time in his career that Guru Sai has reached the quarter-finals of a Super Series, the last being the Denmark Open in 2009.

Kashyap, meanwhile, had to settle for a loss yet again after having played three close games against Indonesian star Taufik Hidayat in the past year.  Taufik was better prepared and controlled the game right from the start. He was better at the net and his smashes left Kashyap clueless.

“His (Hidayat’s) net play was very good today. He was smashing well and controlling the game. My strategy was to keep the rally going but I couldn’t stick to that. He was putting me in awkward situation,” Kashyap said.

“My movements were good today. But Hidayat waits for his opponent’s mistakes and I made a couple of errors to concede quick points. I believe a little more experience could have worked in my favour,” he added.

Hidayat said he was lucky today and admitted “it wasn’t an easy match”.

“I am a lucky guy today. Kashyap is a good player but he made many mistakes, especially the last point when his serve hit the net. I have played him thrice, all close matches, but today I was lucky,” said the world No 2 shuttler.

In the quarter-finals, Sourabh will take on world No 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, while Guru Sai will clash with eighth seed Hu Yun of Hong Kong.

Tine Baun, after dodging a Singaporean bullet by the name of Xing Aiying on Wednesday, succumbed to her compatriot Chen Jiayuan (pictured) on Thursday.  Singapore placed two in the women’s singles quater-finals.  Gu Juan also defeated Wednesday’s giant-killer Ai Goto of Japan.

Thailand, too, had some delight from upsets when Porntip Buranaprasertsuk beat Eriko Hirose and Ratchanok Intanon finally took down Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.

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