High-flying Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth clinched his second successive Superseries title in a span of eight days with a brilliant straight-game triumph over reigning Olympic and world champion Chen Long of China in the Australian Open men’s singles final in Sydney.
The freshly installed World No 11 won 22-20 21-16 in a 45-minute marathon clash against the World No 6, who is also the reigning World champion, and also the winner of the All England Open earlier this year.
There was a lot of pressure on Srikanth, who is only the fifth player in the world to contest three successive Superseries finals, ahead of the summit clash.
Srikanth took an early 5-3 lead before he capitalised on Long’s sluggish defence to lead 11-9 at the mid-game interval of the opening game.
But Long, who is known for his incredible defence clawed back with a deftly-placed smash, to make it 11-11.
The Chinese shifted gears in no time to put Srikanth under pressure after the change of ends with clinical backhand drives.
In response to Long’s mid-court domination, Srikanth played two flat smashes to show he was still very much in the game.
And it was this tenacity which got Srikanth a 17-15 lead even though Long continued to breathe down his neck.
But Srikanth did not let the momentum slip. Helped by Long’s erratic game, the Indian earned his first game point at 20-19.
Long managed to save that with a rasping smash but Srikanth’s perseverance fetched him another at 21-20 when the Chinese shuttler was foxed by a low backhand return. This time, Srikanth made no mistake and sealed the first game in 23 minutes.
The second game began with an engaging baseline rally, which ended with Srikanth smashing his way to earn the first point.
The see-saw battle continued for a while before Srikanth broke away to lead 6-3, dominating the rallies with his accurately, rather awkwardly, placed shots, which Long found difficult to return.
But it was not to say that Long was completely out of the contest. He did manage to keep the gap in check with flashes of brilliance that make him among the best in the world.
However, Srikanth seemed determined to end his winless streak against his fancied rival and led 11-9 at the lemon break of the second game.
Srikanth did not let the lead slip from that point, raising his game by quite a few notches against an increasingly faltering Long.
It took Srikanth a minute less than the first game to wrap up a rather comfortable victory.
The triumph was a morale-boosting jinx-breaker for Srikanth, who had lost all his previous five encounters to Long. However, the Indian broke the jinx in Sydney to win the fourth Superseries title of his career.