Bengaluru: Back in 2014, Kidambi Srikanth shot to fame doing the unthinkable. Playing in the China Super Series title clash when no-one gave him a chance against an invincible Lin Dan, the Guntur lad pulled off a shock victory to jump into the spotlight.
Srikanth had then painstakingly made it to a top ranking of 16, but in the interim period, couldn’t replicate the performance. Glimpses of his potential could be seen in spurts and the 24-year-old looked set to be called a one-time wonder.
But three years down the line, the shuttler has bounced back tellingly with back-to-back Super Series’ triumphs, which has put both him and Indian men’s badminton back on the map.
After winning the Indonesian Super Series, Srikanth continued his superb form to race into the Australian Super Series final.
Heading into the final against reigning Olympic champ Chen Long, the Indian was definitely the underdog. But once again, Srikanth overturned the odds to walk away with the title while cracking the top-10 ranking.
“I am very happy with the way I have been playing in last couple of months. Heading into this final I didn’t want to think too much about winning or losing and I only wanted to play well and enjoy the game,” said Srikanth to this newspaper.
“Of course I am glad to have come out victorious at the end and this is an important win, but each win is equally special for me,” said the Hyderabadi.
It’s not just Srikanth, as Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy have lifted men’s badminton in recent times. Without doubt, the efforts of new coach Mulyo Handoyo needs to be seen in perspective.
The Malaysian, appointed by Pullella Gopichand at his Academy has hugely helped men’s badminton step out from the shadows of the women’s game that has dominated the nation.
Dwelling on the rise of men shuttlers, Srikanth, who was out of the game for three months following a stress fracture at the Rio Olympics, said, “The new Indonesian coach Mulyo’s training is really working well for us, along with Gopi sir’s support. It has really clicked and everything has fallen in place. I didn’t want to play much after the injury but recover first and train. My coaches and support staff have kept me fit and helped improve my game. It has really boosted my game and am playing to my potential.
“The last couple of weeks have been really good for us, with both Prannoy and Sai playing well. I am really happy that badminton is growing in the country and that I have been able to be a part of this growth. I hope we can continue performing this way.”
Srikanth now turns his attention to the upcoming World Championship in August. “I am happy to be in the top ten, but my main aim is to win. I am shifting my focus to the world championships. I hope to give my best and win, but to reach that goal all I have to do is train very hard,” concluded Srikanth....