To win tournaments, you’ve to be better than everybody else: Kidambi Srikanth
India’s Kidambi Srikanth is delighted after winning a world championships silver, after becoming the first male player from his country to reach the title round at the prestigious event.
His beaming, bearded face radiating confidence, you can make out that Kidambi Srikanth is a content man. The former world No.1 became the first Indian male to reach the final of the World Badminton Championships, eventually claiming silver in Huelva, Spain on Sunday.
Lakshya Sen ensured a second medal for India in the premier tournament, finishing with bronze to emulate Prakash Padukone (1983) and B Sai Praneeth (2019).
Back home in Hyderabad after a glorious week, the 28-year-old Srikanth decoded his run, his sensational semi-final win against Sen, loss in the final to Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew, his 2021 season and the packed next year (Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and All England championships) in a video interview.
Has the achievement sunk in yet?
Yeah (laughs), it has. I am extremely happy, excited and high on confidence—it’s a great feeling.
Where does this medal rank among your achievements?
Every win, every Superseries, Grand Prix Gold, International Challenge is very important. In 2012 when I won an International Challenge (Maldives) it was very big for me then, in 2013 when I won GP Gold (Thailand) it was very big then. This is one of the biggest for sure.
Did you reach your peak and regain your old confidence?
I don’t really want to compare myself to 2017-18. At the moment I am feeling very good. World Championships is a very big event. It was always a dream for me to win a medal and now to have silver feels great.
Were you relieved to be assured of a medal after trying for many years?
Not really. I wasn’t thinking too much about it. I was only thinking about the next match. I wanted to keep things very simple and not put myself under any pressure. I didn’t want to tell myself that I’d reached semis (medal confirmed) and playing for a place in the final and put a lot of pressure on myself. I told myself that I have won four rounds, there’s another match to be played. I will go back, recover, plan, come back and play. That’s it.
Your semi-final against Lakshya was quite memorable.
We used to practice a lot together during the tournaments because we’ve been travelling together for the last three months. It is always tough if you’re playing a fellow countryman. It was a very good match; very high quality, long and both of us just gave everything we had.
Did it drain you before the final?
I don’t think so. In a World Championships semis that is what you expect. You can’t really get 20-minute matches at that stage.
Three semis, one final, unlucky with draws—how do you look back at 2021?
If you are not in the top 8, you can’t expect good draws. In the end, if you want to win tournaments you have to be better than everybody else. In that scenario the draws shouldn’t matter. I really want to win tournaments. Let’s see. I’ll try and work on everything that didn’t go right and try and get better and win more tournaments next year.
You are back in the top-10
I haven’t really seen the rankings but I got to know. Next year is very big. I’ll definitely try to get back into the top 8 so that I can get some good draws. It’s a big year with big tournaments. I’ll definitely try and win medals.
Does this medal compensate for missing the Tokyo Games?
I don’t think there is any compensation. I am just happy that I finally got a medal at the World Championships.
You had significant success under coach Mulyo Handoyo, who also shaped world champion Loh Kean Yew’s success story. Now Mulyo is to return to India.
I didn’t think so much, but Loh Kean Yew is also very quick, likes to be on the aggressive side and wants to dominate from the net; very similar to my game style. I don’t really have any news of Mulyo coming back to India but I’ll be very happy if he can return.
How tough was it when your coach Agus Dwi Santoso quit before the World Championships?
It is always tough when your coach leaves but you can’t really stop at any point. You have to continue working hard, forget about everything that is happening outside and just try and play your best game every time you get on court.
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- Kidambi Srikanth