Kidambi Srikanth

Top Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth bowed out of the Denmark Open badminton tournament with a 22-20, 13-21, 16-21 defeat to Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei in the men’s singles quarterfinals here on Friday.

The world number two Taipei player came back after losing the first game and took the next two to win the match in one hour and two minutes and storm into the semifinals.

With the defeat of Srikanth, seeded fifth, India’s campaign ended in the USD 750,000 Super 750 tournament, the only world tour event happening this year in a calendar thrown haywire by the Covid-19 pandemic. But despite the drought against Chen getting extended on Friday, there were positive signs for Srikanth to take from his loss.

To put things in perspective, Srikanth’s last win came right around the start of 2017, a breakout year for the then 21-year-old Indian. That season had seen Srikanth winning his first Super Series Premier Open at the China Open, beating the then reigning Olympic champion Lin Dan. Srikanth would build on that success, eventually rising to World no.1 in 2017. Since then though, the Indian had appeared to fade. Injuries – particularly a niggle in his right knee that has plagued him persistently since the summer of 2019 — began to take a toll as did the pressure of making the 2020 Olympics.

He’s had a dismal run (W4, L6) in 2020 with four first round exits and was 22nd in the race-to-Tokyo rankings (he had to be in the top 16 to be certain of a place) when the international calendar was suspended in mid-March. More than one commentator has wondered if his confidence had not slipped as well. The break appears to have worked for him though. His injury has healed completely and he’s playing free of pain and worry for the first time in months. By reaching the quarterfinals, Srikanth had already gone further than he had all year. While wins against Toby Penty and Jason Anthony Ho Shue in earlier rounds were less challenging, the match against Chen was his real test.

Srikanth took the early lead at 7-4 but Chen fought back to 11-10 midway into the first game. The Indian made his way back to 19-19 and then 20-20 before taking the first game 22-20.

The second game saw Chen dominating Srikanth as the Taipei player zoomed ahead from 10-9 to win it 21-13 and take the match to the decider.

Srikanth put up some fight in the early exchanges of the decider but seemed to have lost way later. Chen left the Indian behind to take the third game and wrap up the match.

Lakshya Sen had lost in the second round on Thursday while Subhankar Dey and Ajay Jayram had made first round exits.