A season of highs saw him knocking on the door of world’s top 10 and India’s Sameer Verma believes a positive mindset and improved strategies will hold him in good stead at the All England Championship starting March 10.
Sameer came out of the shadows of his illustrious colleagues last year when he reached the knockout stage of the World Tour Finals as a qualifier, riding on his title run at Swiss Open, Hyderabad Open and Syed Modi International at Lucknow.
Two of these titles — Swiss Open and Syed Modi — were Super 300 events and Sameer, who had reached the finals of Hong Kong Super Series in 2016, hopes to achieve his dream of winning a higher level tournament when he steps out at the Arena Birmimgham for the All England Championship.
“I want to win a big tournament and I want it to be All England,” Sameer told PTI in an interview.
The 24-year-old will open his campaign against former world champion Viktor Axelsen.
“I have lost twice to him (Viktor Axelsen) but I am not too worried. I played him around 7-8 months back. At that time, I was not at this level. I think I am much better prepared to take him on,” said Sameer.
“My mindset and strategy have improved a lot now. I can’t tell about the results, I am not thinking about them but I feel I’m best prepared for the All England this time.”
Sameer, who had finished a pre-quarterfinalist in the 2016 All England, has played Axelson only twice in the past — the 2018 Indonesia Open and 2011 World Junior Championship.
He reached a career-high ranking of world no 11 this January after a stellar run in 2018 and Sameer says he has the self-belief to break into the top 10.
“If I would have won the World Tour Final or reached the finals, I would have broken into top 10. The loss against Shi Yuqi is still in my mind, I guess it will only go once I win something big. But I have the idea now, I know I can be in that top 10,” Sameer said.
The youngster from Madhya Pradesh had lost 12-21, 22-20, 21-17 to World no 2 Shi Yuqi of China in the semifinals after holding the match point in the second game.
Asked to name one player he would want to face, Sameer said: “I want to play Kento Momota. I had beaten him at Swiss Open but I lost to him at the World Tour Finals and I want to test my game against him, compete against him.”
With both the players placed in separate halves of the draw, the only way they can face at the All England is if they reach the finals.
It took multiple injuries spread over seven years for Sameer to realise that he needs to take care of his body instead of chasing results and ranking.
With a hectic schedule ahead, Sameer said focusing on mind and body will remain his aim this season.
“I think I have cared a lot for my body last year. The physios were with me in tournaments also, so it helped. You also have to take care of the diet. Nutrition is something I need to think of as it also helps in recovery,” he said.
“Results in tournaments don’t matter, because you might not perform in 2-3 events, but they will come eventually. Last year, I won the Swiss Open and the Hyderabad Open but I didn’t do well in all events, so I know I can do better.”
The Olympic qualification period starts from April 29 and the BWF rankings list, which would be published on April 30 next year, will decide the spots for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Sameer said he would look to avoid thinking about the Olympics as it can create unnecessary pressure during the qualification period.
“…you can think of it as a normal tournament and not take any pressure, and stay stress free. That would be the way I would want to think because otherwise, it will affect my performance,” Sameer said.
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