Not many outside the Indian badminton circuit would have known Sameer Verma till Saturday, but after a fine win over World No 3 and third seed Jan O Jorgensen, the country has had to sit up and take notice. The spotlight may have been more on PV Sindhu's second consecutive Super Series final, but after Rio Olympics silver medallist's loss to Tai Tzu Ying on Sunday, the country would pin all its hopes on Verma to come good in the Hong Kong Open.
As Verma faces off against local favourite Ng Ka Long Angus, here's a low down on all you need to know about India's badminton's latest sensation:
1. Verma hails from Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, and has come a long way to reach where he is right now. He is the younger brother of Sourabh Verma, who had won the Chinese Taipei Masters earlier this year, and like his more illustrious elder brother, is a student of the Gopichand Badminton Academy. Sameer has been training at the premier badminton academy since 2010.
2. Verma had been a successful campaigner at the youth level, winning silver in the Asian Junior Badminton Championships in 2011 and the in the men's singles at the Commonwealth Youth Games the same year. At the 36th Junior National Badminton Championships in Jaipur the following year, Verma won the boy's singles U-19 category. He also won bronze at the 2012 Asian Junior Championships at Gimcheon, South Korea. Verma's first international title came in 2013 when he won the men's singles event at the Bahrain International Series and Bahrain International Challenge. He won the Senior Nationals earlier this season.
3.Verma has had a history of injury problems. He has had to spend two seasons nursing back and ankle injuries. However, he came back strongly, winning four titles in 2015 – two in Bahrain, and one each in Bangladesh and Mumbai. In the process, Verma beat decent names – Sho Sasaki, Hu Yun and Wang Zhengming. He saw a substantial jump in his rankings this year, and from 262nd at the start of 2015, he achieved career-best ranking of 35 in March. Verma's best performance this year so far has been at the Bitburger Open, where he made the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Yuqi Shi.
4. The 21-19, 24-22 win over Jorgensen on Saturday made Verma the first Indian man in 24 years to enter the finals of the Hong Kong Super Series, since the legendary Prakash Padukone won the tournament in 1982. He is also the third Indian man to make the finals of a Super Series event. Kidambi Srikanth, the other player to do so, had won the China Open in 2014 and the Indian Open last year.
5. Verma was not part of the main draw in Hong Kong, but was promoted only after a clutch of withdrawals. To have made his way to the final has been a huge achievement, and winning it now will just be the icing on the cake.