Indian shuttler Sourabh Verma entered the men’s singles main draw of the Hong Kong Open after clinching straight-game wins in his two qualifying clashes in Hong Kong on Tuesday (November 12).
The BWF Super 500 event flagged off despite fresh pro-democracy protests across the financial hub with a number of the city’s players qualifying for the main draw to delight their home fans.
The badminton showpiece is one of the few high-profile sports events to go ahead in the city during five months of increasingly violent demonstrations.
The shuttle extravaganza, featuring many top players from mainland China, had been thrown into doubt by the police shooting of a demonstrator and a man being set on fire by protesters on Monday.
However, from the Indian contingent Sourabh seeded fourth in the qualifiers, first defeated Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 21-15 21-19 before getting the better of Lucas Claerbout of France 21-19 21-19 in the final qualifying round.
The other Indians featuring in the men’s singles main event will start on Wednesday. World no.10 Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma, H S Prannoy and Parupalli Kashyap are those in fray in the competition.
While Srikanth has a tough opening encounter against world no.1 Kento Momota of Japan, Sourabh’s brother, Sameer will be up against Tzu Wei Wanf of Taipei.
B Sai Praneeth too has a tough opening round encounter against third seed Shi Yu Qi of China, while Prannoy and Kashyap will take on China’s Huang Yu Xiang and Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.
Later on Tuesday, the Indian shuttlers will open their campaign in the mixed doubles event.
While the pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa will be up against
Thailand’s Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Savitree Amitrapai, the combination of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy will face third seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand.
The top seeds — including men’s world number one Kento Momota of Japan and Chinese rivals Shi Yuqi and Chen Long — will begin their campaigns on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for governing body the Badminton World Federation (BWF) told AFP: “All possible avenues regarding the security and status of the tournament has been looked into. The number one priority is and will always be the safety of the athletes, player entourage, officials, spectators and staff and this has been factored into all decisions.”
(With inputs from agencies)