Sameer Verma sees off Kiran George, Aakarshi Kashyap overcomes Schulz challenge

Ayush Shetty and Mithun Manjunath also advanced to the pre-quarterfinals.

Experienced campaigner Sameer Verma proved that he was getting closer to his best as he upset men’s singles third seed Kiran George in straight games while women’s singles fifth seed Aakarshi Kashyap saved a match point to beat Denmark’s Amalie Schulz to advance to the pre-quarterfinals of the Guwahati Masters 2023 Super 100 badminton tournament here on Wednesday.

Verma, who has been struggling with injuries for the last few months, dominated the proceedings against the third seed Kiran through-out the 32-minute second round encounter, winning 21-13, 21-13.

While Kiran could not find a way past Verma, Kashyap kept her nerves after losing the opening game to beat Schulz 15-21, 21-17, 22-20 in a match that saw the Indian play catch-up in the business end of the third game after her opponent clinched four straight points from 13-16 to take a one-point lead.

Kashyap saved a match point at 19-20 and then bagged two consecutive points to set up a second-round clash against Chinese Taipei’s Lin Sih yun.

Also advancing to the next round were women’s singles players Ira Sharma and Tanya Hemanth, who defeated their more illustrious Malaysian opponents. Ira came from a game down to beat Wong Ling Ching, ranked 63 placed above the Indian, 17-21, 21-17, 21-12 while Tanya got the better of top Malaysian star Kisona Selvaduray 21-16, 15-21, 21-16 to reach the Round of 16.

Ira will now face another Malaysian Karupathevan Letshanaa while Tanya takes on compatriot Malvika Bansod for a place in the quarterfinals. Malvika had earlier defeated Uganda’s Fadilah Rafi 21-10, 21-10 in the earlier round.

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Men’s National champion Mithun Manjunath and junior world championships bronze medallist Ayush Shetty registered contrasting wins to advance to the next round. Mithun, seeded 7th, defeated compatriot Hemanth Gowda 21-14, 21-10 in the second round while Shetty got the better of Indonesia’s Jason Alexander 21-12, 14-21, 21-17.

Later in the day, women’s singles national champion Anupama Upadhyaya advanced to the pre-quarters with a 21-11, 21-16 win over Bilqis Prasista of Indonesia.

But the marquee match of the day was the clash was a face-off between two players from different generations and different style. And it was the 29-year-old Verma, who came on top with flying colours.

The former world no. 11, who has now slipped to 91 and is playing in only his ninth event in the last 12 months, was slow to get of the blocks and trailed Kiran 1-5 in the opening game. But he clawed his way back to level the score at 10-10 and won eight of the nine points players from 13-12 to draw first blood.

He was much more clinical in the second game, racing to an 8-3 lead. Though Kiran tried to fight back and won five consecutive points at one stage to close the gap at 15-11 but it was too little too late.

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