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What does one make of Kidambi Srikanth's repeated losses?

What does one make of Kidambi Srikanths repeated losses?
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By

Imtiaz Azad

Published: 3 Feb 2018 12:33 AM GMT
Sunday, 29 October 2017 presented one of the most cherishable moments for Indian badminton. A 24-year-old Guntur lad, Kidambi Srikanth had taken headlines by storm when he won the French Open Superseries men's singles title. Srikanth was at his best while brushing past his Japanese opponent Kenta Nishimoto in straight games. He charted records that day winning his fourth Superseries title in a single year; a feat achieved only by Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei, arguably the best male players in the history of badminton. It was also his second consecutive title in two weeks after winning the Denmark Open. His win in France also put Srikanth at his career-best ranking of world no. 2 with a total of six Superseries titles under his belt. Srikanth's acumen left a firm mark in the Badminton fraternity and fans started weaving hopes around him to reach the pinnacle rankings in some days. With three more Superseries lined up in 2017 -- China Open, Hong Kong Open, and Dubai Super Series Final -- anticipations grew swiftly. However, a leg injury during the Indian Senior National Championships, which took place right after the French Open, came as a major blow to Srikanth's aspirations. Struggling with pain, Srikanth had to sit out of the China and Hong Kong Open. Putting aside his injury woes, though he returned to play in the Dubai Super Series Final in December, lack of match practice had clearly affected his performance. In his first group stage match, he faced world no. 1 Viktor Axelsen, who took just 38 minutes to beat him by 13-21, 17-21. Srikanth also lost his other two group matches, which ended his campaign in Dubai.
Two months have already passed since the Dubai debacle, Srikanth is yet to find his foot back into the game. On Thursday, 1 February 2018, a second-seeded Srikanth conceded one of his worst defeat by qualifier Iskandar Zulkarnain of Malaysia in round two of his season-opening India Open badminton tournament. Srikanth, who was the favourite to add to his six superseries titles on his home turf, failed to win the crucial exchanges against the world no. 85 and gave away the game by 21-19, 21-17. The Indian struggled with his consistency and twice he allowed the Malaysian to build a sizeable lead before securing a comeback. Zulkarnain displayed his tenacity by retrieving shots that could have otherwise been noted down as winners to keep Srikanth under pressure. With this defeat, Srikanth slid down to world ranking of five. Despite being a raw badminton powerhouse, it is quite disappointing to see Srikanth's performance dipping every single day. In fact, Srikanth's stint at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) also didn't turn out well as he lost three matches to see Awadhe Warriors crash out of the tournament. An abdominal muscle strain during the PBL also led Srikanth to delay his start to the new season as he pulled out of the Indonesia Masters at the last moment. Following his defeat to Zulkarnain, Srikanth said at the press conference, 'I am happy that I am finally fit and looking forward to playing more tournaments." Such a statement expands our hope for an eventful 2018, but raises doubts about whether Srikanth will be able to regain his peak form back. Injury scares have wreaked havoc to Srikanth's form throughout the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018. A good thing about it is that the Indian is not new to such situations as he proved last year when he recovered from loss and injury concerns to make 2017 the most memorable year for him. It is probably about time that Srikanth gets his momentum back and eyes for another glorious year ahead.
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