India Open 2023: Srikanth bows out after losing to Axelsen

Kidambi Srikanth’s poor run continued as he went down in straight games to Viktor Axelsen in his opening men’s singles match at the India Open Super 750 tournament on Wednesday.

Published : Jan 18, 2023 18:29 IST , NEW DELHI

Kidambi Srikanth of India in action.
Kidambi Srikanth of India in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kidambi Srikanth of India in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Coming into the second day of the $900,000 Yonex-Sunrise India Open, K. Srikanth was aiming to put together his play that once took him to the World No. 1 spot. In the last few seasons, lack of peak fitness apart, Srikanth’s inconsistency has played a major part in leading him out of the world’s top-10 list.

In the same period, Viktor Axelsen’s stature has grown. The World and Olympic champion is truly worthy of the World No. 1 tag by some distance.

But until 2017, a contest involving Srikanth and Axelsen was too close to call with Srikanth’s three wins coming in three games while an equal number of losses were straight-game affairs.

On Wednesday, Axelsen stretched his winning sequence over Srikanth to seven, spreading into a new, sixth season. Shockingly, Srikanth once again failed to take a game off his famed rival despite enjoying a 14-5 lead in the second game.

The most noticeable part of Axelsen’s 10th victory without dropping a game to Srikanth was that he did not play well. He still ended his rival’s campaign with a 21-14, 21-19 scoreline. Axelsen showed what confidence does to a performer. In contrast, lack of self-belief was all too evident with despair written large on Srikanth’s face after the 41-minute defeat.

Far more than the expected straight-game exits of Aakarshi Kashyap and Malvika Bansod besides the women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Bhat-Shikha Gautam, this kind of defeat is sure to hurt Srikanth.

Even Axelsen praised Srikanth’s play that gave him a nine-point lead in the second game but that was no consolation for the Indian. Srikanth started well in both games. He led 7-5 with a fine mix of aggression and some deft placements. But Axelsen clawed back to win six out of the next seven points for a 11-8 lead at the mid-game break.

In the second, too, once Axelsen scripted a comeback from 5-14 by cutting down firm strokes, focussing increasingly on soft flicks in dominating the net-play. Soon, exasperation led Srikanth to a series of errors.

The unhurried Dane caught up at 19-all and soon crossed the line, with hands raised in triumph.

Leading first-round results (Indians unless stated):
Men’s singles: Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt K. Srikanth 21-14, 21-19; Loh Kean Yew (Sin) bt Kodai Naraoka (Jpn) 21-18, 9-21, 7-21; Lee Zii Jia (Mal) bt Shesar Hiren Rhustavito (Ina) 20-22, 21-19, 21-12; Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (Ina) bt Lu Guang Zu (Chn) 19-21, 21-19, 21-19
Women’s singles: Beiwen Zhang (USA) bt Aakarshi Kashyap 21-15, 21-12; Busanan Ongbamrungphan (Tha) bt Malvika Bansod 21-17, 21-12
Women’s doubles: Pearly Tan-Thinaah Muralitharan (Mal) bt Ashwini Bhat-Shikha Gautam 21-8, 21-11.
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