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Don’t know what the future holds: Kidambi Srikanth after Australian Open glory

Kidambi Srikanth on Sunday made sure that his name will be taken in the same breath with the likes of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, overcoming a major roadblock in his career path by winning the Australian Open Superseries

other sports Updated: Jun 26, 2017 11:00 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Kidambi Srikanth of India poses with the winner's trophy after defeating Chen Long of China in the Australian Open men's singles badminton final in Sydney.
Kidambi Srikanth of India poses with the winner's trophy after defeating Chen Long of China in the Australian Open men's singles badminton final in Sydney.(AFP)

Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have carried the weight of expectations on their young shoulders for long. They will continue to do so in the times to come. However, they will not be alone.

Kidambi Srikanth on Sunday made sure that his name will be taken in the same breath with the likes of Saina and Sindhu, overcoming a major roadblock in his career path. The 24-year-old lad completely outclassed reigning world and Olympic champion Chen Long in Sydney to clinch the men’s singles crown at the $750,000 Australian Open Superseries.

Read | Kidambi Srikanth outclasses Olympic champ Chen Long to win Australian Open

Though Srikanth has beaten top players of the world once in a while in the past, the Guntur-born is now making it a regular habit.

To reach the finals of three successive Superseries events is something that does not take place everyday. The last time it happened in men’s badminton was in 2015 when Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei achieved the hat-trick.

Though he lost the Singapore Open final to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in April, he went on to clinch the Indonesia Open title, defeating top players like Jan O Jorgensen and World No1 Son Wan-ho on the way.

Read | Twitter praises Kidambi Srikanth for his Australian Open Superseries win

But in Sydney, the Pullela Gopichand protégé climbed the steepest of inclines, where each step was a big challenge. He first Chinese Taipei’s Kan Chao Yu, who is always a difficult opponent. He then overcame No1 Son once again in the span of a week.

Srikanth ousted Sai Praneeth in the quarterfinals after losing to him in the Singapore final. He then defeated Chinese World No 4 Shi Yuqi before eventually moving past Chen Long.

“I was not thinking much before the match. I had just decided to play my normal game. I have been playing really well for the last two weeks so wanted to continue with that,” Srikanth told HT moments after winning the title.

Though he has beaten the world’s best in the past, including two-time Olympic and five-time world champion Lin Dan, victories against top players haven’t been so regular. Now, with three Superseries finals on the trot, what’s changed?

“Srikanth had a stress fracture in his ankle in September 2016 after which he was out till December. We used that period and the time after that to practice a lot. We worked on his strength, fitness, his upper body and a few other areas in the last few months. We had a couple of new coaches who have helped him a lot. Overall, we had a good amount of training before the season began,” an elated chief national coach Gopichand told HT.

One of the coaches Gopi was referring to is Indonesian Mulyo Handoyo, who is best known for training former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat. Even Srikanth agreed that Mulyo’s inputs have helped him.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me but so far this is the best I have played. I would like to thank my coaches and physios. Practicing with Mulyo, his training techniques have made a real difference,” said Srikanth.

With two Superseries titles in the bag, Srikanth is now targeting the World Championships, to be held in Glasgow in August. “I am not playing any more tournaments before the World Championships and will be training hard for it. I just want to play the way I am right now and not do anything different and concentrate on my regular exercises,” concluded the humble lad.