Even though Kiran George lost to Toma Junior Popov on Thursday, Indian fans were more than content with his quarter-final finish at the Thailand Open 2023.
Playing some of the best badminton of his career, the 23-year-old went on a giant-killing run to register his best result of 2023 by far.
"I feel good, it’s a good confidence booster for me for the upcoming season," Kiran told The Bridge over a call from Thailand.
Ranked 59th in the world, Kiran George pulled off the biggest win of his career when he defeated world rank 9 Shi Yu Qi in straight games 21-18 22-20.
"I was excited to play him. I have followed him and beating him was a huge result for me," Kiran said.
The very next day, Kiran proved that his win against Shi Yu Qi was not a flash in the pan. In the round of 16, Kiran dominated another Chinese shuttler Weng Hong Yang, who had come into the tournament with a runner-up finish at Malaysia Masters and had knocked out Kidambi Srikanth in the first round.
Bad start to the 2023 season
The 2023 season didn't start well for Kiran as he suffered multiple early-round exits from World Tour tournaments. He had endured four first-round exits in six tournaments. His form dipped even at the national circuit as he lost to junior Rithvik Sanjeevi in a national tournament.
All these results took a big toll on his world ranking, which dipped from 44 at the start of the season to 59 before the Thailand Open.
He thinks he incorporated patience into his game after that, which help him grind out the final few points against the likes of Shi Yu Qi and Weng Hong. In the second game against Shi, Kiran went from 17-20 down to win 22-20. He kept Shi engaged in longer rallies and didn't give him a sniff at the winner.
Talking about the change in his game, Kiran said, "I played very patiently this week. I engaged in longer rallies which helped me play tougher opponents."
Kiran not only played patiently but paced himself to reach the net faster and mixed deceptive shots with drops.
One of the biggest reasons which have improved his game is training with world champion Viktor Axelsen. Last year, along with his compatriot Mithun Manjunath, Kiran went to Dubai alongside the Danish shuttler.
"It was a great experience. I got to learn a lot while training with Viktor. His discipline is something I admire a lot," said Kiran.
With momentum back, Kiran aims for more
Finishing in the top eight of a BWF World Tour Super 500 tournament will do wonders for the confidence of Kiran George who has seen his compatriots like Priyanshu Rajawat win a World tour title.
"Yes, I think this quarterfinal finish will do me good. It will help in gaining the much-needed momentum back," Kiran said.
With his ranking set to improve after a good showing, Kiran needs to break into the world's top 32 to play at the elite level regularly and have a shot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Kiran will feature in Maldives Open next week followed by Taipei Open later in the month which is BWF World Tour Super 300 event.