Srikanth’s stunner

K. Srikanth... a big win to boost his confidence.-SUBIR ROY

“The first Grand Prix title of your career should be a very special one. I will cherish this for a long time,” says K. Srikanth following his victory in the Thailand Open Grand Prix.

Kidambi Srikanth made his journey to Bangkok a memorable one as he won the Thailand Open Grand Prix badminton championship on June 9. With a near-flawless performance, the 20-year-old defeated the top seed and World No. 8, Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand, 21-16, 21-12, in 34 minutes in the final.

“There is no doubt that I am delighted. The first Grand Prix title of your career should be a very special one. I will cherish this for a long time,” said Srikanth, whose elder brother Kidambi Nandagopal is a regular doubles player in the circuit.

“Honestly, I never thought about the fact that I was playing against such a seasoned campaigner and in front of his home crowd. The focus was more on playing to my potential, for I was aware I was too close to a golden opportunity,” recalled the 13th seed.

Interestingly, Srikanth shifted his base from Guntur to the Pullela Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad, in 2008, and that obviously seems to have made a huge difference.

India’s chief national coach and former All England champion Gopi Chand recalled that when Srikanth joined him he was talented but very unorthodox and was competing in too many events (singles, doubles and mixed doubles). “After working on his fitness and a few aspects of his game, like ensuring more power in his strokes, I thought he should be better off in singles,” said Gopi.

“I am really pleased with Srikanth’s success in the Thailand Grand Prix in the context of the fact that Indians have been winning big titles only at home. In this regard, this is a very significant win and should augur well for Indian badminton,” he added.

Significantly, Srikanth did not drop a single game in any of the six matches he played on way to the title triumph. And among his major scalps was the former India Open winner Son Wan Ho of South Korea in the quarterfinals.

“It is a long way to go in the big league, but I am pleased with the way I have been improving in the last one year. It has been slow and steady,” said Srikanth, who is currently ranked No. 63 in the world.

V. V. Subrahmanyam