National champion Sameer Verma and Mumbai’s Harsheel Dani shocked Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Emil Holst, respectively, to reach the men’s singles semifinals at the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament in Lucknow on Saturday.
Eighth seed Sameer, who had reached the finals at Hong Kong Super Series last year, rode on his powerful smashes to dish out a tricky game and stun second seed and world number 14 Vittinghus, who is coming back after undergoing a surgery due to apendicitis, 21-15 21-13 in a 35-minute clash.
It was 15th seed Harsheel, 20, who started the proceeding when he dumped 12th seed Denmark’s Holst 21-16 17-21 21-11 in a thrilling contest at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium.
A former under-19 champion, Harsheel, who had won the 2012 Karvy All India junior-ranking and was a runner up at the Turkey International Open 2015, will face Sameer tomorrow.
Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu expectedly brushed aside Vaidehi Choudhari 21-15 21-11 in another lop-sided contest, while defending champion Kidambi Srikanth boosted his confidence with another 21-12 21-17 win over Malaysia’s seventh seed Zulfadli Zulkiffli.
While China Open champion Sindhu, world ranked sixth, will face Indonesia’s fourth seed Fitriani Fitriani, who edged out Polish Open winner Rituparna Das 21-17 13-21 23-21 in a hard-fought battle. Srikanth will meet compatriot B Sai Praneeth, seeded ninth and who prevailed 21-19 12-21 21-10 over compatriot Sourabh Varma, seeded 11th, in another match.
Sameer, who was nursing recurring back and ankle injuries before winning international challenge titles at Bahrain, Bangladesh and Mumbai, produced a game that was laced with cross court and deceptive smashes and half smashes — enough to bamboozle the World No. 14 Dane, who committed unforced errors galore to dent his chances.
At the first game, he broke off at 4-4 to quickly move to a 11-6 lead at the break after pushing the shuttle at the back of the court. His quick reflexes and angled returns helped him to gather points at will as he eventually sealed the opening game when Vittinghus found the net.
The Dane, who won his maiden Super Series title at Australia last year, grabbed a 8-4 lead in the second game only to see Sameer once again wriggle out of his grip with a straight six-point burst. The Indian then slowly shut the door on the Dane without much ado.
Harsheel, who has been training at the Uday Pawar academy for last 14 years, however, had to dig deep in his reservoir to dismantle the World No 47 Holst. The Mumbaikar walked away with the opening again without being troubled much after opening up a 7-3 lead early on.
In the second game, Harsheel had a 10-6 lead but he blew it as Holst made a comeback, despite a late fight by the Indian. However, the strapping left-handed shuttler changed his gears in the decider to zoom past his opponent as he lead 10-1 at one stage and didn’t give any chance to Holst to make any comeback.
India are thus assured of the mixed doubles crown as Sikki and Pranaav, seeded second, who won two Grand Prix tournaments at Brazil and Russia last year, will now face seventh seeded compatriots Ashwini and Sumeeth in the finals.
India were also assured of the men’s singles title after Praneeth set up a summit clash with Hong Kong Super Series finalist and National champion Sameer, seeded 8th, who produced better court coverage and placement to outwit an erratic Harsheel Dani, 15th seed, 21-15 21-11 in another semifinals match.
In the men’s doubles, eighth seeds Lu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han of Chinese Taipei took out Indonesian seventh seeded combo of Berry Angriawan and Hardianto Hardianto 21-16 21-17 to reach the finals.
Top seeds Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark also staved off a spirited challenge from the fourth seeded Indonesian duo of Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto 11-21 21-17 21-19 in a match that lasted for an hour and four minutes.
The day also saw BAI president Akhilesh Das Gupta announce a cash prize of Rs 50 lakhs and Rs 25 lakhs to Sindhu and chief national coach P Gopichand respectively, and Rs 10 lakh for Srikanth.