What’s the story?
Srikanth Kidambi’s stupendous form has helped him find a place in the pantheon of greats. The India No. 1 upset the World No. 4 Shi Yuqi 21-10, 21-14 on Saturday to reach the Australian Open 2017 final which is his third consecutive Superseries final. This has made him the first Indian man and just the sixth player in history to achieve this feat, joining legends Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long apart from Bao Chunlai and Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
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Srikanth had earlier finished as a runner-up to his training partner B Sai Praneeth at the Singapore Open in April and followed it up by winning the Indonesia Open just last week.
He is now on a nine-match winning streak and has reclaimed his India No. 1 position by overtaking the 15th ranked Ajay Jayaram by four places.
The heart of the matter
Srikanth has time and again credited the new Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo for helping him get back on track after the stress fracture that he suffered last year which robbed him of three months of action.
If anything, his back-to-back wins over the World No. 1 Son Wan Ho validate that he is well and truly back. The conviction and confidence that were missing last year are back. There’s complete clarity in his thoughts, free from any doubt or hesitation.
He used to struggle against his compatriot Sai Praneeth and lost both matches this year prior to their Australian Open showdown. Even at the Singapore Open final, Praneeth had the early lead and looked poised for victory, however, he slumped to a three-game loss.
It’s a completely different picture now. Srikanth’s attacking game is in full flow and he has also fine-tuned his net game, adding little deceptions to his repertoire which were visible in his Australian Open semi-final against Shi Yuqi today.
Srikanth is playing fearlessly at the moment which is such a joy to watch and he fully deserves the rare feat he accomplished today.
Srikanth has a tough task up next as he faces the reigning Olympic champion, Chen Long. The Indian has a dismal 0-5 head-to-head record against the former World No. 1.
The Chinese, though, hasn’t been very consistent and lost to HS Prannoy just last week at the Indonesia Open.
Let us hope that we have the opportunity to see the Pullela Gopichand protégé play this freely in the future.