Srikanth Kidambi’s shuttle to success

By Saurabh Shankar ·

The son of a paddy farmer from Andhra Pradesh, Srikanth Kidambi grew up harbouring aspirations of sowing his future in the field of sports. The shuttler began his sporting chronicles by playing cricket like many in India, but took to badminton after a new municipal stadium was constructed near his native town of Guntur.

Srikanth, along with his brother Nandagopal, began using the new facility to the fullest, mastering this new sport. Seeing the dedication of the brothers, their parents decided to give their children proper coaching and they found a badminton coach in Sudhakar Reddy - a state level champion.

Under the tutelage of a seasoned coach, Srikanth soon got selected to the Sports Academy of Andhra Pradesh and relocated to Visakhapatnam. In his first few years at the academy, he was primarily a doubles player and played his first few global competitions like the Commonwealth Youth Games as part of a pair.

Switching from Doubles to Singles

It was only under the guidance of his current coach Pullela Gopichand that Srikanth decided to try his hand at singles.

Making the switch from covering half-court and playing close to the net to managing the entire court was a challenge, but Gopichand recognised the potential in his ward and insisted on Srikanth concentrating on his singles game.

The persistence paid off as the young shuttler beat two-time Olympic gold medallist and one of the greats of the game Lin Dan in straight games at the 2014 China Open Super Series Premier. This achievement made him the first Indian to win a Super Series Premier event, ushering his era as a singles specialist.

Srikanth rises to the top

Srikanth Kidambi has become India's first male World No.1 since official ra...

Rising up the ranks

Since that China Open feat, Srikanth’s career has been on a constant upward spiral. He followed it up with another first-place finish at the 2015 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold.

A few months later, another top-placed finish followed at the 2015 India Super Series. These wins propelled Srikanth to third on the BWF men’s rankings, allowing him to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

In Rio, Srikanth cruised past the group stage with two straight game wins, first against Mexican Lino Munoz and then against Henri Hurskainen of Sweden. In the round of 16, the Indian ace continued his fine showing with a 21-19, 21-19 win over one of Denmark’s biggest players, Jan Jorgensen.

However, that win pitted him against ‘Super’ Dan once again. Though the Guntur lad had tasted victory against the Chinese great in the past, Srikanth couldn’t get past Lin Dan at the Rio Games despite a heroic effort. He would lose the tie 6-21, 21-11, 18-21 to bow out in the quarterfinals.

Kidambi Srikanth.

Gold galore

Prior to the Rio Games, Srikanth performed brilliantly at the South Asian Games, winning a gold medal in the Men’s Singles as well as the Men’s team event.

Then in 2017, the shuttler won the top spot in Australia, Denmark, France, and Indonesia, while ending as the runner-up in Singapore after losing to his compatriot B Sai Praneeth.

These tournament wins helped Srikanth get to the pinnacle of the BWF men’s ranking in early 2018. That year also saw him further bolster his reputation with a silver-medal finish at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

As of July 2019, the 26-year-old is ranked 10th in the BWF Men’s Rankings and finds himself in good stead to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Alongside young sensation Sameer Verma, Srikanth Kidambi will now be one of India’s main prospect for the Games next year.