For the India No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, the stress fracture in the right ankle that he is currently recuperating from, could not have come at a more inopportune time. After months of struggle, the 23-year-old Pullela Gopichand protégé had finally been finding back his form.
He made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open Superseries in June and then followed it up with a confidence-boosting display at the Rio Olympics where he made it to the quarter-finals. Even in that narrow loss to the two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan, Srikanth’s fighting skills and his burgeoning confidence were evident.
Thus it was only natural for him to build on it further. While the Rio Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu took a break from the circuit after the mega-quadrennial Games, Srikanth toiled hard on the courts at the back-to-back Superseries events in Japan and Korea in September.
Unfortunately, that attempt ended in a disaster as he sustained his latest injury while playing in Japan where he made it to the quarters. He continued to play with it in Korea the week after which only aggravated the problem.
Consequently, it ruled him out of the entire European circuit where he missed two Superseries tournaments – the Denmark Open and the French Open.
Out of China Open and Hong Kong Open
Srikanth had originally hoped to recover in time to play at the China Open Superseries Premier which is scheduled next week. The Guntur-born shuttler has fond memories of playing at this Fuzhou tournament where he clinched his maiden Superseries title a couple of years ago.
But now it is confirmed that there would be no such repeat as Srikanth will have to opt out of it and also from the Hong Kong Superseries the following week.
He has been advised not to rush his recovery, the World No. 13 revealed in a recent interview to ESPN.in.
“I had a little pain, but I didn’t think it would be that bad,” said Srikanth. “After the first MRI, I thought I would still be able to play in China but our physio C Kiran told me not to rush the recovery.”
‘Wanted to play at the Superseries Finals for the third time.'
The India No. 1 admitted that his decision to play in Japan and Korea, was, in part, forced by his desire of making it once again to the prestigious BWF World Super Series Finals to be held in Dubai in December. Only the best eight players of a particular season get to compete in it and Srikanth was able to do it the last two years.
“I was the only Indian men’s singles player to have played the last two Super Series finals, so I was hoping to make it three in a row. So I had to play the Super Series in Japan and Korea.”
His efforts are now proving to be futile as his injury has rendered him out of four consecutive Superseries events. The period of inactivity has seen him drop down to 19th in the ‘World Superseries Destination Dubai Rankings’ where a top-eight finish is necessary to qualify for the elite year-ender.
With his hiatus now having been extended, it is expected that his ranking will plummet further, dashing all his hopes of making a Superseries Finals hattrick.
The Syed Modi International champion has resumed practice just a week ago and is clearly in no mood to hurry. He is targeting a return at the Macau Open in November-end as that will give him three weeks to prepare. But he is not willing to take any risk, and if he doesn’t feel hundred percent fit, he will forgo the idea of playing in it.
“I’ve got about three weeks to get fully fit for competition. But I won’t play Macau if I’m not ready. If I do return, it’ll be when I’m at a hundred percent.”
‘Surprised at becoming the highest-priced Indian at the PBL2 auction.'
Aside from the disappointment with the injury, Srikanth had a reason to feel delighted. He emerged as the costliest buy amongst all Indian shuttlers at the auction for the second season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) held on Wednesday. The Rs. 51 lakh that the Awadhe Warriors bid for him was significantly higher than the Rs. 39 lakh and the Rs. 33 lakh that the two Indian shuttle queens, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal respectively fetched.
It was quite surprising given their popularity and the series of successful results that they have had. Especially after Sindhu’s silver medal win at Rio, she had bolstered her credentials to be the top pick.
But that did not happen, and it left even Srikanth himself astonished, who self-admittedly did not expect to do that well.
“I think I got off easily,” joked Srikanth, adding, “I’m quite surprised myself. Everyone, including me, thought that Sindhu would be the top pick. I seriously doubt if anyone was expecting me to do that well.”Published 11 Nov 2016, 10:37 IST