It turned out to be a heartbreaking end to Sourabh Verma’s rampaging run at the Bitburger Open as the Indian shuttler went down fighting to World No.16 Shi Yuqi of China in the summit clash of the Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament here today.
The 23-year-old Indian, who had clinched the Chinese Taipei Open last month, suffered a 19-21 20-22 loss against Shi in a 45-minute men’s singles final clash.
It was the second successive title for Shi, who had clinched the French Super Series last week. For World No. 57 Sourabh, however, it was his third runners-up finish this season after finishing second best at international challengers at Belgium and Poland.
Sourabh, who is on a comeback trail after spending almost a year on the sidelines due to elbow and knee injuries last year ever since he recovered from a series of injuries, had defeated Denmark’s Anders Antonsen, seeded 15th, 21-15 21-18 last night to reach the men’s singes final.
Sourabh had come into the finals of the USD 120,000 tournament with a 0-1 record against the Chinese, who had beaten him in a gruelling three-game match early this year at the Syed Modi International Championships in January.
The Indian fought back from 6-9 deficit to grab a 13-10 lead at one stage and kept his nose ahead till 18-16 when Shi reeled off four straight points to turn the tables on the Indian. Sourabh made it 19-20 but the Chinese ensured he had the advantage as he pocketed the first game.
In the second game, Sourabh was 6-4 and 9-7 ahead but once again the Chinese marched ahead leading 14-10. With a jump smash, Sourabh drew parity at 15-15. But a brilliant rally ended with a superb stroke at the net for Shi, who produced a sharp slice next to lead 17-15.
Sourabh again made it 17-17 and also went into the lead at 19-18 when Shi’s smash got buried at net. But another great net play helped the Chinese make it 19-19.
A body smash gave Sourabh a chance to come back into the match but a straight smash and then another point gave the chance to the Chinese, who sealed it when Sourabh hit the shuttle high and long.
In the semifinal match, Sourabh dished out a gritty performance as he fought back from 3-6 and 8-10 down to grab 14-12 lead. Antonsen clawed his way back immediately but the Indian ensured he pockets the first game.
In the second game, Sourabh opened up a 10-7 lead but the Denmark shuttler drew parity at 15-15 and then grabbed a 18-16 lead. But the Indian reeled off five points to seal the issue in his favour.
Sourabh’s younger brother and National Champion Sameer Verma, seeded 12th, however, lost 18-21 15-21 to Shi Yuqi in another semifinal match yesterday.