The pressure of being the defending National champion proved too much for young Sourabh Verma. After receiving a bye in the first round, the 19-year-old top seed was made to say ‘bye-bye’ in the second round of the National badminton championship here on Sunday.
The teenager’s eight-month reign ended when 17-year-old Chhatisgarh-lad Shreyansh Jaiswal played the match of his life and inflicted a stunning 18-21, 21-17, 21-15 defeat.
Even as most results came on expected lines, Sunday proved an off-day for Sourabh. For Shreyansh, it was his best day at work. The 52-minute match that began with Shreyansh not believing he could win ended with Sourabh cracking under self-doubt on the big points.
Eventually, the protégé of P. Gopichand’s coach Mohammad Arif lived his biggest moment at the expense of the trainee of the former.
“I still cannot believe that I’ve won,” confessed a jubilant but shy Shreyansh after pulling off the biggest upset of the championship and continued, “It was only in the second game that I started believing I could win.” After Sourabh claimed the opening game, Shreyansh started well in the second by opening up a lead of 11-3.
Though Sourabh managed to bridge the gap to 12-13, Shreyansh kept his nose ahead to force the decider. “This was a very frustrating game and I started losing my confidence,” revealed the dethroned National champion. The decider was fought on an even keel with Sourabh leading 13-12.
But Shreyansh, “thinking of only one point at a time,” won the next six points to raise visions of the upset. Sourabh hit a couple of shots off the court and a few others into the net to stare defeat in the face. Thereafter, Sourabh could score only twice and left Shreyansh rejoicing his moment of triumph with his mother.
Later, wildcards P. Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram — the country’s top two players in world rankings — recorded unimpressive victories. Kashyap took out fifth seeded Akshit Mahajan 21-18, 21-16 and Jayaram escaped Sourabh’s fate by completing a 21-8, 20-22, 21-12 victory over Rohan Castellino.
Two former champions, Arvind Bhat and Chetan Anand, set up an intriguing third round clash. Arvind, seeded 16, overcame Sahil Katlariya 22-20, 21-13 and the unseeded Chetan overpowered Neeraj Vashisht 22-20, 21-16. Tamil Nadu’s V. Velavan advanced to the third round after 10th seed B. Sumeeth Reddy withdrew after the opening point.
Among the ladies, fourth seed Sikki Reddy retired in the first game when leading 11-8 against Pinky Karki and eighth seed Mudra Dhainje gave a walkover to Santoshi Hasini. The top three seeds — Neha Pandit, Sayali Gokhale and defending champion P.V. Sindhu — made it to the third round in straight games.