He’s not one to rest on his laurels

“There is absolutely no pressure on me being the best-ranked men’s player from India. I don’t think any player will give a serious thought to his or her ranking when playing in a major event,” says Kidambi Srikanth (with the Swiss Open trophy).-PTI “There is absolutely no pressure on me being the best-ranked men’s player from India. I don’t think any player will give a serious thought to his or her ranking when playing in a major event,” says Kidambi Srikanth (with the Swiss Open trophy).

“It will be a dream come true to play in the (Rio) Olympics. And doesn’t an Olympic medal mean a lot?” asks the Swiss Open champion, Kidambi Srikanth. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

It was a victory he needed very badly. Kidambi Srikanth, who is India’s highest-ranked men’s singles player in the world at No. 4, won the Swiss Open title in Basel recently, defeating the defending champion, Viktor Alexson (Denmark), 21-15, 12-21, 21-14 in the final.

The 22-year-old player, who had stunned the badminton circles with his stupendous victory over the five-time world champion, Lin Dan, in the China Open late last year, has been in search of a big title, having lost the India Open Grand Prix final to practice partner at the Gopi Chand Academy, Parupalli Kashyap, at the start of the year.

Srikanth is of the view that his victory at the Swiss Open is a huge morale-booster ahead of some of the major events lined up in the season. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be the first Indian men’s player to win the Swiss Open title. However, I have a lot of things to do to realise bigger dreams,” he says with his parents K. V. S. Krishna and K. Radha beside him.

“The All-England Championship was some sort of a disappointment. But there were a few things that I could pick up from the tournament, and I must thank Gopi Sir for all the efforts he had put in to spur me to think big and work really hard.

“I won’t say there is a specific area of my game on which I am going to work in the days to come, for my effort is always to keep improving my all-round game. We are conscious that we have to be consistent over a period of time at the highest level to be a different player,” Srikanth says.

Known for his astonishing strokes on the court, Srikanth says that he is chasing a big dream — to become the World No. 1. “The key to achieve that will be to perform consistently in the more than 10 Super Series events lined up this year. The start has been satisfactory — finishing runner-up in the India Gold Grand Prix and winning the Swiss Open. The best part is that I am able to enter the knockout phase in most of the events,” he says.

“There is absolutely no pressure on me being the best-ranked men’s player from India. I don’t think any player will give a serious thought to his or her ranking when playing in a major event. For instance, in the Swiss Open, I was the top seed and I was hoping to win it. But it still meant that I had to give my best to win the title. And mind you, there was never a moment when I thought I was close to winning the title before I had actually won the final,” he adds.

Reflecting on his fitness as a result of playing many tournaments, Srikanth hinted that he might be a bit selective in playing in the major events. However, a final decision will be taken by his coach and mentor, Pullela Gopi Chand. “Luckily, whatever planning he does for any player is for the benefit of the latter. So I don’t actually bother about tournament schedules, for he takes care of the training and exposure programmes with great care,” Srikanth points out.

On his rivalry with Kashyap, Srikanth dismisses it off as a non-issue. “We are the best of friends, always trying to share a few thoughts on the game.

“We keep working hard and look ahead,” he says.

Talking of his dreams of winning a medal at the next World Championship, and playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Srikanth says it is important for him to stay in the top 10 over a period of time. “You just cannot sit and relax on what you have achieved till now.

“There is lot more over the next one year, and it will be a dream come true to play in the Olympics. And doesn’t an Olympic medal mean a lot?” he asks.