India’s Srikanth Kidambi played his heart out before going down fighting against two-time defending champion Lin Dan in the quarterfinals of the men’s singles badminton event at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old from Guntur, who had beaten the five-time World Champion from China in the 2014 China Open final, suffered a 6-21 21-11 21-18 loss against the World No. 3 Chinese in a nerve-wrecking match that lasted for an hour and four minutes.
Lin Dan will now take on his long-time rival and two-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in a mouth-watering semifinal clash. The top seed beat sixth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 21-9 21-15.
Srikanth thus remained the second Indian male shuttler to reach the quarterfinals after Parupalli Kashyap achieved the feat at the London Games.
A former World No. 3, Srikanth seemed nervous early on and was totally outclassed in the lop-sided opening game which lasted just 16 minutes.
Srikanth struggled with his net play early on to allow Lin Dan lead 4-1 in the first game. The left-handed Chinese continued to dominate with his controlled stroke play as he engaged in long rallies with the Indian to lead 10-1 after winning a video referral. With Srikanth once again hitting long, Lin Dan entered the interval at 11-1.
After the break, Srikanth tried to get a hold on his nerves and played long rally but always ended up hitting a wayward shot as Lin Dan continued to surge ahead. In the end, it was two unforced errors that gifted the game to the Chinese.
There was a visible change in Srikanth’s demeanour in the second game as he raced to a 6-3 lead. His strokes got better as he caught the celebrated Chinese off guard a few times with his angled returns and held a six-point advantage at the interval.
Srikanth tried to engage Lin Dan in long rallies with some deep corner returns and then came up with some sublime winners to lead 15-8. The Indian missed a video referral to allow Lin Dan a point but his forehand smash found Lin Dan napping next. The Chinese again hit long as Srikanth led 17-9.
A cross court backhand return earned Srikanth another point and with the Chinese going long again, meant he had a 10-game point advantage. One smash went wide but Srikanth roared back into the contest with a superb return at the forecourt.