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

Kidambi Srikanth defeated Olympic champion Chen Long in straight games to clinch the Australian Open and Superseries title in a row.

other sports Updated: Jun 25, 2017 17:14 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kidambi Srikanth,Chen Long,Australian Open
Kidambi Srikanth poses with the Indian team manager after his Australian Open Superseries win in Sydney on Sunday.(BAI Media)

It had been a long wait but Kidambi Srikanth has managed to overcome Chen Long at last since their first meeting in 2014. The Indian shuttler defeated the World and Olympic champion from China, for the first time in six meetings, in the men’s singles final to lift the $750,000 Australian Open Superseries crown in Sydney on Sunday.

Srikanth came out with a brilliant performance to outclass the former World No 1 22-20, 21-16 at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre to claim his second successive and overall fourth Superseries crown.

READ | Australian Open: Kidambi Srikanth storms into 3rd consecutive Superseries final

The 24-year-old had already become the first player since Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei in 2015 to reach a hat-trick of Superseries finals. Before the title in Australia, the Guntur-born had also reached the finals in Singapore, which he lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in April, and the Indonesia Open final last Sunday, which turned out to be his first Superseries title this year.

But the manner in which Srikanth won on Sunday was stunning. The Indian had managed to win only one game in five previous face-offs against the two-time World champion opponent.

But it was quite evident who the better player was in Australia, although the Chinese gave a tough fight. It must not be forgotten that a player of Chen Long’s calibre has not won a single Superseries event in 2017. Hence, no one would be hungrier than the 28-year-old Chinese.

READ | PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal crash out of Australian Open, Kidambi Srikanth in semis

But that did not bother Srikanth. He matched each step taken by Chen in the final. The court coverage was fantastic as both shuttlers made each other run all around the court.

Chen’s height and regular on-court suave did not matter for Srikanth as some mesmerising cross-court smashes helped him take an 11-9 lead at the first break of the match.

Neither player let the other run away. While former World No1 Chen used some cross-court dips to perfection, Srikanth was impeccable when it came to down-the-line smashes.

Despite the stiff competition, Srikanth eventually managed a game-point at 20-19. But a defensive lapse helped Chen level at 20-all.

Srikanth again had match point a few seconds later. This time he did not waste the opportunity and closed the game.

READ | Kidambi Srikanth stuns World No.1, faces B Sai Praneeth in Australian Open quarters

Srikanth had managed to complete the first task i.e. to hold his nerve and take the lead in only 23 minutes. He had won only his second-ever game against the reigning Olympic champion. The Hyderabadi was all calm and poise in the second game. A couple of errors and line judgement calls from Chen Long made Srikanth take a 6-2 lead, though the world No 6 Chinese levelled the game at 9-9.

However, Srikanth found legs thereon and never lost the lead. It was only a formality towards the end as Chen had realised that it was not his day. And after 46 minutes, Srikanth became only the second Indian to win the Australian Open after Saina Nehwal, who was victorious in 2014 and 2016.

Cash reward

Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Himanta Biswa Sarma announced a cash reward of Rs.5 lakh for Srikanth.

“We are really proud of Srikanth. It is simply phenomenal. He has not only made the country proud once again but has etched his name among the best, and no words are enough to praise Srikanth,” said Sarma.

First Published: Jun 25, 2017 11:58 IST