India’s campaign at the Hong Kong Open Super500 badminton tournament came to an end on Friday as Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma both lost in the quarter-finals.
World No 11 Kenta Nishimoto knocked the fourth seed Srikanth out of not just the tournament but also the race to the BWF World Tour Finals, after beating him in straight games.
Later, world no 18 Sameer also failed to tame local hope Lee Cheuk Yiu, who came through the qualifiers to seal his maiden semi-final spot at this level with a 21-15, 19-21, 21-11 win in a match that last an hour and 13 minutes.
Srikanth came into the match after winning a marathon second-round encounter against compatriot HS Prannoy 18-21, 30-29, 21-18 after an hour and seven minutes. However, Nishimoto was also playing in the quarter-finals after coming through two three-game matches, both lasting over an hour, against Lucas Corvee and Kantaphon Wangcharoen.
Helped by the slow courts in Hong Kong, Nishimoto took a 11-7 lead into the interval of the first game, before some good defence and smart attacking allowed Srikanth to level at 13-13. Nishimoto eventually pulled away again to take the first game 21-17.
Any hopes of a Srikanth fightback in the second game were blown way as the Japanese raced to a 11-3 lead at the break. There was no coming back for Srikanth from there as Nishimoto won the game comfortably 21-13 to seal his progress to the semi-finals.
This was Srikanth’s sixth quarter-final defeat this season, which has been poor compared to his 2017 when he won four Superseries titles. Srikanth has played in only one final this year – at the Commonwealth Games, where he lost to Lee Chong Wei. Srikanth has exited tournaments before the quarters on five occasions, while also losing to world champion Kento Momota as many times.
Later in the day, Sameer, who had reached the final of the Hong Kong Open in 2016, couldn’t find a way to outwit Lee, who was rewarded for his control and precision.
Sameer had beaten Lee at the New Zealand Open earlier this year but that didn’t matter as the world No 47 opened up a 4-0 lead in the opening game and consolidated it to 12-3 at one stage.
Sameer turned up his retrieving skills and rallying after that, and managed to claw back to 15-16 but the Hong Kong player reeled off five straight points to take the opening game. Sameer was a lot better in the second game and managed to hold four game points.
However, Lee saved three of them and was close to levelling it up before a line call went against him. Lee raised his arm to challenge the call but was told he did not have any reviews left in the game. In the third game, the duo split the initial 10 points before Lee eked out a five-point advantage, reaching 11-6 at the break.
After switching sides, Sameer couldn’t break the run of points, going wide and long. The local qualifier looked more aggressive and seized the opportunities to continue his domination. Lee eventually sealed his place in the semi-finals when Sameer’s return hit the net.