Badminton: After a triumphant 2013, Kidambi Srikanth now prepares for new challenges
In a sport in which Pusarla Venkata Sindhu hogged the limelight by winning two Grand Prix titles, the World championship bronze and the Arjuna Award in 2013, Kidambi Srikanth too held his own with an impressive showing in the big league.
The 20-year-old who had given an impression of being a restless shuttler, silenced critics first by winning the Thai Open Grand Prix, then putting up sterling show in the high-profile Indian Badminton League and finally capping the year with his maiden Senior National men’s singles title.
“Yes, winning the Nationals is something special. I must say it was akin to winning a Super Series title given the fact that I had to beat some of the best men’s shuttlers including Kashyap and Guru on the way,” says the unobtrusive champion from the famed Gopichand Academy. “Winning the Senior national title for the first time will always remain special — it has its own aura and I enjoyed every bit of my performance in Delhi,” says Srikanth, who smashing game is a treat for fans and an eyesore for his opponents.
For all those who line up on court, Srikanth might give a misleading impression of being a disinterested character not really concerned about the results. But the intensity with which he fights for every point and often puts the best players on the defensive with his magnificent range of smashes, has already made him a big hit in the men’s circuit.
This athletic boy who was born in Guntur shifted his base to Hyderabad for better prospects in badminton. Ever since he won his first international title in Maldives in 2012, there was no looking back for Srikanth. The seasoned campaigner Anup Sridhar always feels that Srikanth has one of the best return of serves and the way he employs even the low serves is something really special.
The major victories in 2013 for Srikanth were over Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark (the then World No. 6) in the first round of India Open in New Delhi in April, and over the top-seeded and World No. 7 Boonsak Ponsanna to win the Thailand Open Grand Prix.
So, when Srikanth got the better of two of the best men’s singles players, also his practice partners at the Gopichand Academy – Parupalli Kashyap and RMV Guru Sai Dutt – in the semi-final and final respectively, it was not by chance.
There was a method and meaning in which Srikanth demolished the two senior players. “It is very difficult given the fact that we know about each other’s game inside out. And think of the sentiment part. But, fortunately, I could just shut myself away from these factors and clinched the issue,” says the visibly pleased shuttler.
“2014 is a big year with the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games lined up. I would love to keep improving,” says Srikanth. He is now a key element in chief national coach Pullela Gopichand’s scheme of things as part of the bigger dream of winning an Olympic medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. “It is too early to comment on that but that should be on my mind as I approach that mega event. But more importantly, all depends on how well I prepare and perform in the run-up to the next Olympics,” he signs off before another long training session.