Indian shuttler Kiran George says his giant-killing act at the Thailand Open Super 500 tournament earlier this year gave him the self-belief that proved to be the key to his second BWF title at the Indonesia Masters in Medan on Sunday.
The 23-year-old from Kochi made a lot of heads turn when he stunned 2018 World Championships silver medallist and former All England champion Shi Yuqi and Malaysian Masters finalist and Australian Open winner Weng Hongyang at Thailand Open Super 500 earlier this year.
“Initially, in the first two to three months, I struggled a bit with my form, but later in Thailand, I started playing well and beat some good players. From there on, I had this self-belief that I could beat anyone. That belief and consistency were the keys to winning this tournament,” Kiran told PTI.
Kiran, who had won his first title at the Odisha Open Super 100 last year, beat World No. 82 Koo Takahashi 21-19, 22-20, in a 56-minute final clash of the Indonesia Masters.
“The tournament went pretty great for me. It wasn’t easy as there were tough matches from the first match itself, but once I managed to pull out the first round, I had the momentum and it kept me going,” he said.
“The toughest match has to be the pre-quarterfinal against the Japanese (Takuma Obayashi); it was a really long and tough match.” He had defeated Obayashi 18-21, 21-19, 21-19, in 59 minutes.
Talking about his final against another Japanese Takahashi, Kiran said: “He was really good in defending and was returning everything, there were a lot of long rallies, but I kept my composure and tried not to make errors. I kept telling myself, ‘Believe in yourself.’” The World No. 50 Indian had fallen 1-4 behind at the start of the match but slowly caught up with Takahashi at 8-8 before gaining a two-point lead at the interval.
Takahashi fought his way in the closing stages to make it 19-20 before the Indian sealed the opening game.
“I had managed to win the first game similarly in the semifinal as well (against Tommy Sugiarto), so I didn’t want to give up.” Kiran, son of former national champion George Thomas, had claimed the Odisha Open and Polish Open before suffering an ankle injury that took a couple of months to heal. He also finished runner-up at the Denmark Masters last year and had a career-high ranking of No. 43 in January this year.
Kiran, who started playing the sport as a four-year-old in Kochi and trained there till age 14, currently trains at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bangalore under coach Sagar Chopda.
Sessions with sport psychologist Gayatri Vartak and strength and conditioning coach Amit Vengurlekar also helped.
“The most important part for me is to recover quickly from each match. I used to struggle with that, but now I am doing well. I have been training with Amit sir for the last one-and-a-half years. Also Gayatri ma’am is my mental trainer,” he said.
Next up for Kiran is the USD 420,000 Hong Kong Super 500 starting on Tuesday.
“I travelling to Hong Kong next and I’m focusing to do well there now,” said Kiran, who will face Chinese Taipei’s Chi Yu Jen in the men’s singles qualifiers.
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