e is swiftly emerging from the shadow of his illustrious colleagues Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. And given his current form, it seems that Kidambi Srikanth, 24, will become the first Indian male to do what India's female shuttlers have already done-rise to the top by beating the world's best in badminton.
On June 18, Srikanth won the Indonesia Open Super Series championship at Jakarta, the first time an Indian male had done so. He did so by outplaying Japan's Kazumasa Sakai (21-11, 21-19), having already defeated the world champion, South Korea's Son Wan-Ho, in the semi-final. Srikanth's reward-aside from the $75,000 tournament prize-was his new status as India's most successful badminton player, after Saina Nehwal, in the Super Series events.
"And it's Super Series Premier title," Srikanth wrote on Instagram after he won. "I had to wait two years for this.... Special thanks to my coaches and physiotherapist." With this, he becomes the first Indian male to clinch a Super Series, a Super Series Premier and a Grand Prix Gold title.
But his road to success has been a bumpy one. "Returning to the international circuit after nursing an ankle injury and a long break is tough," he remarked, "[especially] given the keen competition." In 2014, Srikanth's rise to the top had seemed all but assured. That year, he won the China Open by defeating local hero and then world champion Lin Dan in a historic upset. This had assured sky-high expectations for Srikanth's 2016 Olympics outing. But it was not to be-at Rio, Dan had his revenge, edging Srikanth out of the running by defeating him in the quarter-finals. Srikanth admits that it was difficult for him to come to terms with that loss.