Wasteful Srikanth crashes out in Rd 1 of India Open badminton
India’s former world No 1 loses to Denmark’s current top player in the men’s game, Denmark’s Olympic and world champion Viktor Alexsen in the first round of the Indian Open badminton.
Few things in badminton can be more infuriating than watching Kidambi Srikanth in action. How else does one explain his enticing Viktor Axelsen -- leading 17-14 in the first game -- to the net and setting him up for a teasing toss only to send the shuttle wide? Or gift the second game from 14-5, built on the back of an array of jump smashes that twice beat the Danish Olympic and world champion on his forehand side, with a flurry of unforced errors?
India’s former world No 1 switched between the sublime and ordinary on Wednesday, his 21-14, 21-19 first-round loss in the India Open BWF World Tour event encapsulating the many what-ifs his career has been about.
The last time Srikanth beat the current world No 1 was in the Denmark Open quarters in 2017. It was also the last time the Indian took a game off the Dane. Egged on by a partisan home crowd on Wednesday, Srikanth looked set to buck the trend as his smashes had venom and his high tosses finally began to land on the right side of the lines.
But as the second game entered its home stretch, errors returned to haunt the 29-year-old who is now ranked a modest world No 17. Leading 13-9, he engaged Axelsen in an enticing, dominating rally but just couldn't land the sucker punch. It went swiftly downhill from there. The 19-18 advantage became 19-all when Srikanth sent a return wide and yet another net error gifted match point to Axelsen, who closed the contest in 40 minutes with a forehand winner.
Srikanth's losing streak against Axelsen has entered its sixth year and now stretches to seven matches. The overall record reads 10-4 in Axelsen's favour.
“I think I played well but just couldn't finish a few points. Even in the first game, when it was 14-16 or something, I had a few tap-outs and a few smash-outs. Again, in the second game, at 19-18, I hit a tap out when it touched the net and went out. But a lot of positives to take from this match,” Srikanth said.
For Axelsen, winner of the Malayasia Open last week, the win over Srikanth was hardly one of the easy first-round matches he is increasingly getting accustomed to. Srikanth dominated much of the second game, often dictating the tempo and building up to finish the point. But unlike the Indian, Axelsen made his chances count. Twice in the first game, he got the space and length to bring out his power smashes, and he nailed them both times, to Srikanth’s left and then to his right. In the second game, as Srikanth ebbed, Axelsen racked up crucial points to bridge the gap.
“I still can’t believe I managed to win. I didn't feel good in the second game, Srikanth stepped up and suddenly he locked me in. He is a tricky opponent. I am really happy I won in straight games,” Axelsen said.
“Overall physically, I have not recovered from last week yet. Long travel, five-and-a-half hours. But now I have some more hours tomorrow, so I am trying to recover in the best way possible. It's not easy to come from a hot and humid country (Malaysia) to a rather cold Delhi. I am trying to adapt in the best way possible," he added.
It was Srikanth’s eighth consecutive early exit; the last time he went beyond the second round was at the Badminton Asia Championships last April.
Malvika Bansod and Akarshi Kashyap lost their first-round matches. Bansod was beaten by Thai Busanan Ongbamrungphan 21-17, 21-12 while Kashyap lost to USA's Beiwen Zhang 21-15, 21-12.