HYDERABAD: It was August 2016, and Kidambi Srikanth, India’s lone representative at the Rio Olympics had faltered at the quarterfinal stage against China’s Lin Dan. The ace shuttler, by his own admission, had a difficult time coping with the loss, as he had missed out on an Olympic medal by a whisker. Things got worse, as he severely injured his ankle during the Japan Superseries last September.
For the next few tournaments, the Guntur lad tried hard to put up a good show, but failed. Be it the Japan Open or the All England Championship, the results were just not coming for him — he made first-round exits in both. He could not proceed beyond the quarters at the India Open as well.
But the 24-year-old has finally managed to put those disappointments behind, winning the $1,00,000 Indonesia Open Superseries Premier event on Sunday. Srikanth took just 37 minutes to see off his opponent from Japan, Kazumasa Sakai 21-11, 21-19. This is his second Superseries Premier title — first was China Open in 2014, to go with India Open, a superseries event in 2015. In April, he also managed to get into the finals of the Singapore Open, where he lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth.
So what is the secret behind his success? “Patience,” says Srikanth. “I was out of badminton for sometime after the Olympics, and it was the longest time that I have been out ever since I started playing. That phase kept on motivating me. It was tough to come out of the injury, but I’m really happy, especially after reaching so close to the title in Singapore.”
When a player is recovering from injury, apart from putting in the extra effort to be match-fit, staying positive is what really matters, and that’s what Srikanth did. The coaches who train him believe that, the other male shuttlers who were recuperating from their respective injuries during the same time, too had benefited from Srikanth’s positivity.
Playing for the first time against Sakai, it was always going to be tricky, but Srikanth made it look easy. Despite being 5-11 down in the second game at one stage, the Indian managed to topple his Japanese opponent with ease. “Sakai had come from the qualifiers, so he knew the conditions really well. He is extremely fit and has got a powerful smash. But today, my attack worked well.”
With this win, Srikanth is all set to attain a career-best ranking of World No 2. With the World Championships in his sight, and just one major tournament to go before it, the Australian Open, the Arjuna awardee wants to give it his all. “I’ll play the Australian Open next. It is the last tournament before the World Championships. I’m looking forward to performing well there,” he concluded.
Badminton Association of India chief Himanta Biswa Sarma announced Rs 5 lakh for Srikanth.