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.
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