Srikanth, Sindhu through to quarters

India's Kidambi Srikanth advanced to the quarterfinals of the men's singles badminton event after ekeing out a hard-fought win over World No. 5 Jan Jorgensen of Denmark at the Rio Olympics on Monday.

Kidambi Srikanth... Keeping hopes alive...   -  Reuters

It was a happy Independence Day for shuttler K. Srikanth as he played close to his best in taming Jan Jorgensen of Denmark 21-19, 21-19 in the men’s pre-quarterfinals at the Riocentro Pavilion on Monday.

Meanwhile, P. V. Sindhu is through to the quarters of the women's singles badminton after beating Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei 21-13, 21-15. She will face Wang Yihan of China.

 

The victory fetched Srikanth a quarterfinal spot against the five-time world champion Lin Dan. The Chinese is also a two-time defending Olympic champion.

"It is good to play Lin Dan in the quarterfinals of Olympics. I am really hoping to win the match," said the 23-year-old.

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Srikanth, who had reached a career-best No.3 ranking in the world, has beaten Lin Dan once. He was, however, quick to point out that the win came "nearly two years ago’’.

"You have to stop thinking about the old memories, and start thinking about the present," Srikkanth said with a smile.

It was a solid performance by Srikanth against Jan Jorgensen even though it was a close match. He attacked relentlessly right throughout the match and was happy that he did not let the opponent — who loves to stay longer on court — any big lead at any stage, except for six points in the second game.

However, Srikanth was patient in building up the points before going for the kill.

Srikanth led 8-4 in the second game, but the Dane took it to 10-8 in his favour, before the Indian bounced back from a string of errors and pounced on every opportunity to finish the rallies.

‘’If you are competing at this level, you have to be prepared to take all the chances," stressed Srikanth, who is coached by P. Gopichand in Hyderabad.

‘’I am happy to have handled the big points better. That is the key to matches like this. Even when I have not been winning, I have been playing good for nearly a year. All that has helped in handling such close matches," said Srikanth, sounding quite relaxed and confident.

His determination was evident in the manner Srikanth punched the air in celebration on winning the match and after taking the initiative in the first game.

After P. Kashyap had made the quarterfinals of the London Olympics and locked horns with Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Srikanth has drawn a big fish to fight on the big stage.

Even though he made a string of judgement errors, Srikanth revealed that it was important to play safe and clean, and not give away any easy points to the opponent. "If you give easy points, they can change the game at times," he said.

Srikanth was happy to have beaten the Dane, who had won two of the last three matches between the two.

After the pre-quarterfinals in the last two World Championships and the Asian Games, Srikanth has taken a good step forward, and it remains to be seen how well he tackles the rockstar of world badminton, Lin Dan, on Wednesday.

Agencies add

Sindhu, who has a 2-4 record against Tai Tzu, having beaten her last at the Denmark Open last year, opened up a 3-1 lead early on and even though Tai came back to draw level at 5-5, the Indian managed to lead 11-6 at the break.

Tai depended on her deceptive game to reduce the margin to 10-12 but she was equally erratic with her placements sometimes, while Sindhu showed better presence of mind.

Sindhu won a video referral to reach the game point at 20-13 and then pocketed the first game comfortably with Tai hitting wide.

After the change of ends, Sindhu once again moved to a 3-1 lead but she erred twice on her backhand returns to give away two points.

Tai tried to take away the pace from the rallies and came up with a few down the line smashes to make it 6-6 after Sindhu dropped her serve.

However, Tai’s inability to rein in her unforced errors saw Sindhu lead 11-6 at the interval.

Tai tried to put pressure on Sindhu but failed to give the finishing touch as Sindhu sailed away to a 14-7 lead.

With Sindhu in full flow, Tai seemed clueless and was not able to play her own game, staying away from the net. The Chinese Taipei girl found it difficult to control the shuttle and hit long twice to allow Sindhu a lead of 17-11. A couple of drop shots deflected by the net chord took Sindhu to 19-12 before Tai sent one to the net to gift eight match points to Sindhu.

Tai saved three match points before another long shot saw Sindhu seal the issue in her favour.

“It’s a good win also in the morning Srikanth has won, so it’s a great moment on the Independence Day. I wish we will give our best tomorrow,” Sindhu said.

Yihan is a London 2012 Olympics silver medallist and 2011 World Championship champion and also a winner of the Asian Games gold medalist in Incheon 2014.

“It will be tough, not easy. I have to give my best. I will discuss the strategy with my coach. I’ve played against her long ago, but it’s been a long gap,” Sindhu said.

“Even I feel she’s also playing well nowadays, it won’t be easy. It will depend on the strategy on that particular day. Sometime you may play fantastically and on the other hand it may not go your way. It all depends on the given day.”

Talking about her match against Tai Tzu Ying, Sindhu said: “I was basically alert for every shot. There was no particular strategy. She is a very tricky player and having many flicks and letting it loose even though I was winning points. It was a good game overall.”

Asked about her strategy to smash on the body, Sindhu said: “It was a mix of everything, and hitting mixed court shots out. I did not take it easy at any point. Rallies were going long and she was having good flicks. She was also attacking and her drop shots were very good,” Sindhu said, praising Tai.