Kidambi Srikanth falters again

New Delhi: Viktor Axelsen dashed Indian hopes with a 21-7, 22-20 win over Kidambi Srikanth at the India Open 2019 final, here on Sunday. In a rematch of the 2015 final, the Dane saved a couple of game points in the second game to get his second title after 2017 win.

Heading into the match Srikanth had everything in his favour, a fairly good head to head record, a passionate crowd and a local stadium where he has tasted success before. But Srikanth did little to make use of it as he faltered on the big stage yet another time in the last 2 years.

In women’s singles, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon created history by becoming the first women’s singles shuttler to win the title three times, when she beat the third seed He Bingjiao 21-15, 21-14. With this, she also emulated the legendary Lee Chong Wei’s record to become the second singles player to taste glory thrice at India’s premier badminton event. Her earlier victories came in 2013 and 2016.

Ratchanok started slow against the seventh ranked Chinese, whom she had never beaten in four previous meetings. With Bingjiao cruising at 9-6, the Thai banked on her experience to turn the tables. Using speed and aggression, she drew level at 14-14 and then started targeting the corners to make life difficult for the Chinese.

Bingjiao who had accounted for PV Sindhu in the semi-finals looked pretty subdued since then and struggled to keep up with the Thai’s pace and accuracy. After taking the first game, the former world champion continued her momentum in the second game as unforced errors by Bingjiao piled up. With Bingjiao hitting in haste, a calm and poised Intanon sailed through the second game to go up to 14-9 before closing out the match in 46 minutes.

“I learnt from the past when I lost to her and also from her match against Sindhu yesterday (Saturday),” said Intanon after the win. “People say I play really well here in India Open. Before I came to the main hall, I saw my record against her and it was 0-4 and I thought I need to break this record today. Today, I tried to play calmly and point-by-point and I played well,” said the former World No. 1.

World No. 4 Viktor Axelsen who reached the All England Open final this month was too strong and too powerful for the home hope in the first game as Srikanth struggled to find his rhythm. The precision and firepower from Axelsen overwhelmed the 2015 champion, allowing the Dane to build a 10-point advantage at 17-7 before pocketing the first game.

Amid vociferous cheers from the crowd, the Indian finally settled in in a tight second game. By attacking from the front court and using his body smashes to perfection, the World No. 7 made the score equal at 12-12. With the two deadlocked in the second game, the Indian even carved out a couple of game points to go up to 20-18.

However, a drop shot from the Indian went wide. After that and the second seeded Axelsen made no mistake to get his first match point, which he duly converted after 36 minutes of play. “I think I gave him too many chances in the first set to attack and tried avoiding that in the second. I did fairly well at the 20th point. Maybe if there would have been a decider, I would have had much better chances,” said Srikanth after the match.

In women’s doubles and mixed doubles, the top seeded pairs of Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu and Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping defended their titles. While Polii-Rahayu emerged 21-11, 25-23 winners over third seeds Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean, Yilyu and Dongping prevailed over fifth seeds Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti 21-13, 21-11.

In men’s doubles, Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin triumphed over Ricky Karandasuwardi and Angga Pratama 21-14, 21-14 for their first title at this marquee event.

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