Kidambi Srikanth caused mental mayhem for World Champion Viktor Axelsen in beating the Dane 14-21, 22-20, 21-7 on Friday to make the semifinals of Denmark Open. Winner of two Super Series titles this season, Srikanth had gone off the boil at the World Championships where Axelsen picked his maiden crown. But Srikanth pounced on the net often and was assured in his attacking play at Axelsen’s home event, to record a major upset in front of the partisan crowd.
The 24-year-old Indian unleashed a flurry of down the line smashes deep on Axelsen’s forehand in overturning a first set deficit. The offense was potent in both pace and precision, but Srikanth gained confidence for what was a whiplash of a decider after some gritty retrieving in the second set.
It was while trailing in the opener that Srikanth had made his intent clear with some angular cross court flicks at the net. They didn’t yield him immediate points as he struggled with the drift, but he was chipping away at the home contender’s confident striding with some devilish deception of the wrist.
Viktor — a defensive automaton helped by his massive reach, was wrong footed twice and even got himself into a tangle and landed awkwardly midway through the mid set. Srikanth, seeded 8th, would then stay in the match keeping the margins narrow snapping at the heels of the 23-year-old second seed.
Coach Gopichand till then sitting for the HS Prannoy match would hop into the coach’s seat soon after the opener, and guide Srikanth through what was a mental battle. Srikanth would first come up trumps in the battle of the net with his tight dribbles and then push the attack to the rear putting Viktor’s forehand defense to deep scrutiny. Playing the lines and upping the pace, Srikanth would expose a vulnerability and then twist the knife deeper widening the lead in the third.
Axelsen fell apart under the sustained pressure and exited his home tournament, collapsing in a pile of errors. Srikanth looks good to make the Denmark finals and resume his Super Series title conquests this year. Slow to start he might have been, but this wasn’t down to him being inconsistent. Once he got a measure of the tosses and lifts in the windy stadium, Srikanth was right on top of the best retriever currently in world badminton.
Exhausted Nehwal ousted
Odense: Saina Nehwal suffered a straight game loss to Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s singles quarterfinals.
Exhausted after being forced to play a late night match on Thursday due to a power failure at the stadium, world number 12 Saina lost 10-21 13-21 to Yamaguchi, ranked fifth, inside 30 minutes.
“I did not get enough time to rest, have never played a match at 2am. It has never happened. Never slept at 3am. I was sluggish. My movement was not good. But I should say Yamaguchi also played really well. She has got a good game, she has been consistent,” Saina said after the match. “Last time I had played her was at the Malaysia Open. She has obviously improved a lot in the last two years. She has been in top 5. I have to prepare more to play tough back-to- back matches. I can’t do much about it. Next is French Open.”
Saina, who had lost to Yamaguchi at the Malaysia Open this year, clearly looked tired and sluggish. Her movement was not up to the mark and she committed too many errors to allow Yamaguchi open up a 11-6 lead and could hardly do anything after the break as the Japanese walked away with the opening game. In the second game, Saina tried to pump herself up and managed to move to 3-3 early on but Yamaguchi put the shuttle in positions which the Indian found difficult to retrieve as the Japanese led 7-4. The rallies got faster but Saina did manage to turn the tables at 8-7 but Yamaguchi held the slender one point advantage at the break when the Indian hit long. Yamaguchi stayed a step ahead of the Indian, who seemed a tad late in her strokes.
HS Prannoy lost to Son Wan Ho 21-13, 21-18.