Wins his first title of the seasonWith a young Indian up against a former World and Olympic champion, the result was probably easy to guess. However, a packed house at the Banarasi Das badminton stadium played an unexpected role in making the final evening of the $120,000 Syed Modi India Open Grand Prix Gold badminton championship a memorable one here on Sunday.
Armed with the tri-colour and plenty of lung-power, the spectators backed Sourabh Verma all the way even though it was clear that Taufik Hidayat could not be denied his first title of the season in his final competition of the year.
Hidayat ended his title drought with a 21-15, 21-18 triumph and collected $9,000 for his efforts. Generous in his praise for Sourabh, Hidayat said, “Sourabh is a good player and has the strokes to get much better.” The Indonesian shrugged off a slow start, as he used his experience to dictate the pace of the rallies and won the big points with ease.
Sourabh, who lived his childhood dream of playing Hidayat, could not have asked a better setting for his maiden final appearance in a Grand Prix Gold event.
In keeping with the popular demand, Sourabh raced away to an 8-2 lead, thanks to a high number of errors from Hidayat. But, once the Indonesian settled down, the script followed the anticipated course.
Hidayat made it 8-all and finally broke away from 16-15, winning the last five points of the first game.
In the second, Sourabh showed that he was not overawed by his famed rival as he led 17-14. However, Hidayat won six straight points and clinched the title on his second match point.
Sourabh matched Hidayat stroke for stroke in the second game, winning a few long rallies and seldom letting the champion use his feared forehand cross-courts. It was only when Sourabh's energy level came down in the second game, Hidayat finished the mid-court returns with trademark smashes.
Sourabh, for his part, retrieved far more shots than what Hidayat would have expected. It was the Indian's strong defence that kept him in the contest that lasted 46 minutes.
“I should have won the second game but I am happy with the way I played. It was a good learning experience,” said the Indian, who received $4,560.
Coach Gopi Chand was proud of his trainee. “Sourabh played superbly. He carried out the plan well, but he was up against the class of Taufik, who had planned the big points so well.”
The women's singles final was a non-starter. With second seed Porntip Buranaprasertsuk down with fever, fellow Thai — third seed Inthanon Ratchanok — was assured of the $9,000 cheque that came with the title. The duo left for home even before the presentation ceremony. The doubles' winners shared $9,450 and the runners-up split $4,560.