Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth’s gallant fight ended with a narrow, hard-fought three-game loss against home favourite Tommy Sugiarto in the men’s singles final of the $120,000 Indonesian Masters Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament in Indonesia on Sunday.
In a summit clash that went down to the wire and saw four racquets being used during the course of play, Srikanth squandered a first-game advantage and missed the title by a whisker, losing 21-17, 13-21, 22-24 to the World No. 12 in a match that lasted close to an hour.
The World No. 9 Indian, who won the Swiss Open and India Super Series early in the season, came into the match with a 1-2 win-loss record against Sugiarto.
Srikanth showed tremendous grit, fighting back from 7-11 in the third game to earn himself a match point at 21-20 but he could not provide the finishing touch and had to settle for runner-up.
In the first game, both Srikanth and Sugiarto struggled to deal with the conditions, making odd errors at the net and missing the lines but the Indian managed to keep his nose ahead at 11-8 with a cross-court smash.
After the interval, both players engaged in a long rally which Sugiarto sealed with an accurate net stroke. The Indonesian played some deceptive cross-court returns and with the Indian finding the net more often, he clawed back to 13-13.
A few exceptional backhand returns and a rushing smash once again gave Srikanth the lead at 17-13. He produced a couple of cross-court and straight smashes to further extend the lead to 19-13 and earned the game point with a net stroke but Sugiarto saved two before sending one long to gift the first game to the Indian.
The second game started with an engaging rally and good line judgement gave Sugiarto a 3-1 lead. Srikanth faltered at the nets and allowed Sugiarto too much space to manoeuvre his shots and lead 8-2.
A couple of straight down-the-line smashes gave Srikanth two points but a weak return to the net and then poor judgement at the baseline saw Sugiarto move into the break leading 11-6.
After the interval, Srikanth came up with some spectacular defence but could not follow it up with equally accurate returns as Sugiarto led 13-6.
An over-the-head smash and a cross court return helped Srikanth to narrow it down to 11-14. However, Srikanth lost a point when he walked away as he was not ready for the serve but the umpire decided to give the point to Sugiarto.
The Indonesian soon returned to his healthy seven-point lead when Srikanth found the net and sealed the second game comfortably.
In the decider, a tight backhand corner shot took Srikanth to a 3-1 lead initially but errors cropped in his game as Sugiarto came back at 4-4.
At 5-6, Sugiarto won a controversial point when his smash was judged outside the line but was immediately overruled by the line umpire and approved by the chair umpire.
An unfazed Srikanth came up with a brilliant smash but he faltered at the net next and lost a parallel net exchange. He also made a wrong line judgement as Sugiarto entered the break leading 11-7.
Back on his losing side of the court, Srikanth produced a dominating rally and closed it with a body smash but the Indonesian himself dished out a couple of delectable smashes to lead 13-9.
A brilliant cross-court low net lift gave a point to Srikanth but he buried the shuttle into the net on the next point after an aggressive rally. Another smash and a lucky net point allowed the Indian to narrow the gap to 14-15.
Srikanth picked up some difficult shots but he failed to curb errors at the net as he sometimes rushed a tad early or a little late. Besides, Srikanth’s smash also went wide as Sugiarto led 18-15.
Srikanth narrowed it down to 18-19 but he once again found the net to give the match point to his opponent. He saved two match points -- first with a smash and then when Sugiarto hit wide.
Srikanth then smashed down the line to set up his match point but Sugiarto saved one with a rushing net flick.
Srikanth then left Sugiarto stranded with a smash to move to 22-21. But three more errors at the net -- first a slow drop, second a flick and third a mistimed dribble -- and Sugiarto fell on his knees in celebration.
Srikanth will next play at the prestigious BWF Super Series Final at Dubai, starting on Wednesday.