Fighting the opponents is perhaps easier than fighting to be fit enough to fight them. He became the lone Indian male shuttler to qualify for the year-ending prestigious BWF Tour Finals last year but Sameer Verma had to triumph over the same roadblock over and over again to reach that point.
2018 was quite forgiving and fulfilling for the 24-year-old world number 13. For the ones before that were spent more in recovering from injuries than climbing the ranking ladder. He got the better of Japan’s Kento Momota, reigning world number one, to clinch the Swiss Open.
Rise after the fall
The last 16 and last eight appearances in other tournaments and Hyderabad Open title win and Syed Modi title defence helped him gain recognition and become a serious contender for India at international stage. Being the highest ranked Indian male after Kidambi Srikanth at world number eight, and this being the all-important Olympic qualifying year Sameer would undoubtedly be one of the bets. He, however, would not dream of the big games yet.
“I know it’s an important year and following a good year I should be going for the kill but it is fitness first for me,” he says. “I know if I am fit, results will follow. All I would want this year is to have a fit body and injury free time.”
How it all began
He definitely is familiar with the fragility of a sportsperson. “Initially, I just used to enjoy playing badminton. My father played in a club in Dhar (in Madhya Pradesh) and when my brother (Sourabh Verma) started playing, I got interested too,” Sameer tells us.
“In 2011-12, I got four medals at World Junior and Asian Junior championships. But after that I kept getting struck by injuries.” After a back injury in 2012, comeback in 2013, it was appendicitis in 2014 that shook his confidence and brought him at the brink of quitting.
And when you have a bro like that…
“That was the time when I was thinking ‘what now?’. I became quite negative,” he recalls. “But it was Sourabh (Brother; World No. 56, clinched his third national title on the weekend) who kept me from giving up. He had downloaded a lot of my match videos and he would come every day to the hospital with his laptop and show me how well I played in some of them. That really worked for me.” Thanks to Sourabh and resulting new-gained confidence, Sameer came back to become national champion and perform well for a couple of years to break into world top 20.
The speed breaker of a shoulder injury of 2017, however, could not dampen his spirits this time, but did force a change in approach. However, he was okay with realising his limitations. And, 2018 rewarded him well. Hopefully, 2019 will too.