Srikanth’s upset of Lee Chong Wei in vain as Topguns lose

Despite a dominating performance by World No.9 Kidambi Srikanth, which saw him beat the legendary Lee Chong Wei, Hyderabad Hunters drubbed Bengaluru Top Guns 3-2 in the second tie of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) here on Sunday.

Srikanth got the better of former World No.1 Chong Wei of Malaysia 15-12, 6-15, 15-7 to win the men’s singles contest in style at the National Sports Club Of India (NSCI).   -  AP

Kidambi Srikanth was a cock a hoop at outwitting Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei in a three-game thriller, but the brightest among India’s clutch of promising players was spontaneous to admit that he was disappointed with his team Bengaluru Topguns losing 3-2 on points to Hyderabad Hunters on the second day of the Premier Badminton League here on Sunday.

One could term the result bizarre because the Topguns hunted down Hyderabad in three matches in the presence of a vociferous crowd but the negative points it inadvertently earned in their Trump Match — Sameer Verma losing to Parupalli — and bonus point the Hunters won in their Trump Match cost the Bengaluru outfit the tie.

The moment of an exhilarating evening was the 22-year-old Srikanth’s remarkable march towards victory against Chong Wei, who has unbeaten in his last fifteen matches. This unbeaten run includes the matches he played in the Hong Kong Open, China Open and French open and his three super series titles, one of which against China’s Chen Long, the BWF’s male player of the year 2015. Srikanth’s splendid win only reflected the fact of how much the sport has advanced in the last few years; no wonder Prakash Padukone had described the recent period as the golden era of Indian badminton.

When Srikanth stepped on the court for the last match, his team had already lost the tie. And when the 33-year-old Malaysian champion won the first five points in a jiffy, demonstrating his ability to cover the court and excel in a variety of shots, it seemed the Indian would be outplayed. But a negative first point Srikanth earned — with Chong Wei’s return finding the net — turned out be the beginning of a remarkable turnaround.

“I played five different strokes and lost five points initially. But you cannot really figure out 45 different strokes. You have to play your strokes. It’s not that I am not going to play those strokes if I make mistakes. There was also too much drift,” said Srikanth, recalling the early part of the match.

He previously lost four super series matches to Chong Wei, without winning a game. “I have played a three-game match against him in the IBL. It’s the first time I have beaten him. It’s nice to beat someone like Chong Wei. He’s been on top of the world for seven or eight years. He’s one of the legends of the game.

“He’s won every possible super series event. It gives you confidence when you beat a player like him, especially at the start of a new year. This is what a 15-point format game can do. I played more aggressive today. I took my chances. I got my smashes perfectly.”

When asked to compare his victories against some top players he said: “I cannot really rate among them, Lin Dan, Viktor Axelsen and Chong Wei. They play different styles; Lin Dan likes to play rallies and Chong Wei likes aggression; so it’s good to beat both styles. They are kings of their styles.”

Result: Hyderabad Hunters bt Bengaluru Topguns (Hunters won 2 and Topguns 3), but Hunters won on superior points 3-2 by virtue of favourable Trump Match results

Women’s singles: Katethong Supanida lost to Suo Di 8-15, 11-15 (0/1); Men’s Doubles: Cartsen Mogensen/Markis Kido (TM) bt Hoon Thien How/ Khim Wah Lim 13-15, 15-9, 15-14 (2/1); Men’s singles 2: Parupalli Kashyap bt Sameer Verma (TM) 15-14, 15-13 (3/0); Mixed Doubles: Jwala Gutta/Markis Kido lost to Ashwini Ponnappa/Joachim Fischer Nielsen 13-15,13-15 (3/1); Men’s singles 1: Lee Chong Wei lost to K. Srikanth 15-12, 6-15, 15-7 (3/2)