Hong Kong Open: Chen Long’s withdrawal hands Srikanth a place in semis

The reigning Olympic champion pulls out of the quarterfinal tie owing to a troubled thigh.

India’s Srikanth Kidambi sealed his place in the semifinals of the 2019 Hong Kong Open Super 500 following Olympic champion Chen Long’s withdrawal from their last eight tie on Friday.

Playing with a strapped right thigh, the Chinese shuttler was visibly uncomfortable, as he struggled to meet the rallies time and again in the opening game of the match at the Hong Kong Coliseum.

By contrast, Srikanth found it easy to score points against the two-time World champion and carve out an early lead in the opening game.

In the hunt

Playing against the drift, the Indian rarely found it difficult to direct his shots to vacant areas as Long was mostly unable to exert himself during the match. Managing a 6-4 lead in no time, Srikanth went on a nine-point winning streak to strengthen his hold on the game with a 15-4 lead.

While Srikanth mixed his shots well and ensured he made Long move for his points, the Chinese great banked on some powerful drives to catch the Indian by surprise every time he found an opening.

The two shuttlers kept exchanging serves in the latter half of the opening game, but Long didn’t have enough in his tank to push Srikanth, and conceded the game 21-13 in just 15 minutes.

With the Chinese unable to bear the strain on his thigh, Long threw in the towel handing Srikanth the match and a place in the last four.

China’s Chen Long found it difficult to play against Srikanth Kidambi in the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong Open.
China’s Chen Long found it difficult to play against Srikanth Kidambi in the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong Open.China’s Chen Long found it difficult to play against Srikanth Kidambi in the quarterfinals of the Hong Kong Open.

Life ahead

The Indian, who was handed a walkover in the opening round following World Champion Kento Momota’s withdrawal, will face Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong for a place in what will be his second final of the season.

Srikanth has found it difficult to find his rhythm this season, with a final appearance in the 2019 India Open being his best performance so far.

The Indian is 49th on the Race to Tokyo charts and is only the sixth-best Indian to feature on the qualification programme. Srikanth will have to come up with an inspired performance in the remainder of the qualification period if he wants to make it to his second Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

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