Kidambi Srikanth becomes the first Indian man to reach the final of the BWF World Championships in men's singles
Lakshya Sen won the semi-finals 17-2, 21-14, 21-18; India has now had a finalist in every event since 2015, four times ladies and once men
They urge to look within to locate the sparks of ambition. Kidambi Srikanth had been searching for a few years and had come up empty-handed as his career veered away from its once promising path. Srikanth discovered the burning struggle staring him in the face with cold un-twinkling Lakshya Sen eyes on Saturday, giving the act of seeing within a new depth. With chisel blows and hammer-net strokes, his younger colleague dragged out the winner in him, and Srikanth prevailed 17-2, 21-14, 21-18 to become the first Indian to reach the World Championship finals.
The best person to celebrate this path-breaking journey with could be none other than the man from across the court – a fellow Indian, but more importantly, a fellow warrior of the badminton court. There was a roar in the end, a munificent smile with raising arms and a warm hug at the net, as the best person to celebrate this path-breaking journey with could be none other than the man from across the court – a fellow Indian, but more importantly, a fellow warrior of the A genuine, albeit sweaty, shoulder on which he might lay his head.
Srikanth dug deep within himself to find the edges of his game, where he had to dig his heels in, get dirt under his nails, gnash his teeth, grasp his head in his hands, and play the uncomplicated smash – clean kills, not a set-up to a tap finish to displace his opponent.
There was no feigning a calm demeanour or nonchalance. Srikanth left it all on the field, playing a true bare game with all of his brilliance of strokes sparkling but no concealment of his flaws.
As he failed to express himself in the first set, Kidambi Srikanth was enslaved by ropes of obvious anxiousness. The burden to not lose was on him as the senior, more experienced shuttler, and a former World No 1 to boot. The older Indian was shaky, anxious, and prone to mistakes. In fact, there were nine unforced errors in the first half. And there was no gradual discovery of perfection - he just continued splattering the smash all over the place.
When it came to the lines, Srikanth lacked clarity. He's been sloppy with his accuracy for a long time, and it's difficult to say if that sublime precision dates back to the 2017 French Open, his previous victory, or the 2019 India Open, his most recent final. In the semifinals at Huelva, though, Srikanth backed himself, his depth and breadth of talent, and the pure class of his strokeplay, squeezing winners from Sen's octopus like all-reaching tentacles.
Srikanth made a slew of errors after being forced to play outside of his comfort zone of blitzing attack and dragged into a brawl. The thwack tap of the net is his confidence stroke. It remained evasive. Instead, out came the devastating mid-court smash, the sharp drop that put an end to all debates.
Sen is far from a mug, and he was retrieving a staggering number of returns and returning them. That was enough to turn Srikanth away. When the shuttle would keep returning from the middle, he'd go for the lines and mess it up — long, wide, gasp, head in hands, grimacing face, broken man on haunches.
But then he'd climb back up and start all over again. Srikanth is far too talented to be overshadowed by Sen. He's too good to be dismissed by anyone on the international stage, unless he gets himself into such mental tangles that his magnificent game never gets a chance to shine when the pressure mounts. The audience in Huelva, Carolina Marin's hometown, would warm up to the two Indians, with a preference for Srikanth, whose game and lilt can instantly mesmerise.
He fought on Saturday. Only for the next point. He was defeated in long rallies. However, there was always a new concept fermenting that needed to be tested. Sen was exhausted, but he was as well. Two beautiful down-the-line smashes – those unrestricted hits highlighted all of the pressure pools he splashed in. After falling behind 8-11 in the first game, he let things drift in the second game, losing 21-17 to Sen.
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