Srikanth Kidambi returns against China’s Lin Dan during their men’s singles quarter-final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
By Ronnie Ruff
KIDAMBI SRIKANTH continued his sensational form on the men’s international badminton circuit by winning his second successive Super Series title at the Australian Open last weekend.
The Indian star, 24, beat reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long 22-20, 21-16 in Sydney to take home his fourth major title, just a week after victory in Indonesia.
Firmly back on the comeback trail after recently returning from an ankle injury, Srikanth also became only the fifth man in history to reach three Super Series finals on a trot.
He has also reclaimed his spot in the top ten of the rankings.
“As a whole I played very well, but since I arrived in Sydney I have had gastroenteritis and diarrhoea, so I have not been at my best physical condition. But since I made the final I wanted to continue to play as well as I could,” the champion said after.
“I’m not thinking of winning or losing. I missed competitive badminton and wanted to enjoy the match. It’s like it happened because I missed that period of competitive badminton. I wanted to hang in and play as many matches as possible.”
Srikanth started as the underdog in the clash against the world number six from China, who is a two-time All England champion, but took advantage of a sluggish start from his opponent to lead 10-6 in the first game.
Long recovered though and the finalists went back and forth in non-stop action, until Srikanth earned his first set point at 20-19. This was quickly saved but the Indian didn’t make the same mistake on the second attempt to take the opener.
The second game was another closely fought contest, with Long trailing 9-11 at the break, until Srikanth finally showed his class to clinch victory and another title.
“These conditions are such that you can’t really attack, it’s a bit slow, you have to be prepared for a long match. In all the breaks I had the advantage, the coach told me to keep it going, not to make simple mistakes and allow him back into the match. My attack worked really well,” Srikanth explained.
Srikanth added he was delighted with the form of India’s top players, with HS Prannoy and Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth competing well. With Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu well established on the women’s tour, the sport is approaching an all-time high in the country.
“It is good to be back in top ten. But I did not play this tournament to be back there,I played to win it.
“After the injury, I did not want to push myself so much. I only wanted to train first, get better and then start tournaments,” he said.
“The last two weeks has been fantastic. Not only for me, but for HS and Sai also. Prannoy has done really well beating Chong Wei and Chen Long in successive matches, which never happened before.
“I am really glad that badminton is growing in popularity and I am a part of that. I just hope we can produce even more better results. We need to be much more consistent.
“This is not the end. Let us hope there are three or four (Indians) in the top ten in the next couple of years.”